Exodus House encourages former prisoners

12/30/2013

In the early days of Methodism, John Wesley led small groups of people, who encouraged each other through prayer and support meetings to mature in their faith. Today, a ministry called Exodus House takes Wesley’s method to heart in reaching out to formerly incarcerated people.

“Exodus House provides residential recovery services, out-patient alcohol and drug treatment, and social services,” said the Rev. Steve Burr, program director and clinical supervisor. “Our housing and recovery programs allows for successive reentry into society. This reduces the rates of re-incarceration among male and female offenders.”

Since 1997, when Burr, a retired United Methodist pastor founded Exodus House, the organization has providing housing and support for countless men and women on parole after serving time for drug-related crimes. Exodus House is funded by a Human Relations Day grant.

“Oklahoma has the highest incarceration rate of females in the world,” Burr said. “Many people who are arrested for drug possession or trafficking end up becoming repeat offenders. One of the ways The United Methodist Church can address these problems is to provide opportunities for people who get out of prison to stay out.”

Robin Wertz participated in Exodus House after having served three years in jail for drug trafficking. Now, as a case manager with the program, she helps other women find recovery.

“I was arrested in 2004 for two charges of drug trafficking,” Wertz recalled. “The prison (chaplain) introduced me to Exodus House.

“The most memorable moment was walking into my own apartment at Exodus House to find it fully furnished with my class materials and a welcome sign. It was amazing — after all I’d been through — to find complete strangers wanted to make me feel welcome in this place. It was amazing to know they loved me like that.”

Along with giving Wertz a place to stay during her recovery, Exodus House provided support as she looked for a job and connected her with a church and support group. Exodus House also helps residents receive government nutrition assistance and bus passes as they seek work. All apartments come furnished, and residents can take the furniture from their apartments with them when they leave Exodus House.

Today Wertz is an active member of Redemption United Methodist Church. Along with helping get her life back on track, Exodus House restored Wertz’s faith.

“Before I went to Exodus House,” she said, “I had struggled with faith. My dad was a preacher, and he left our family when I was 9 years old. It was very hard for me to pray to ‘Our Father’ because of my own father’s actions. The classes at Exodus House taught me that we all have distorted images of God and helped me realize that I did have a Father who loved me. I love my church and try to give back to others and be a good Christian. I know that with God, we can do anything.”

Exodus House is one of many ministries that have received funding through the Human Relations Day offering, traditionally shared on the Sunday before the birthday observance of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Gifts support ministries that demonstrate authentic love of one’s neighbor by transforming communities and restoring human relationships.

“Human Relations Day,” said Burr, “is an opportunity for United Methodists to give money outside their regular giving to promote programs that address the real needs in communities for human relations. We need to continue to live out our mission to make disciples of Jesus Christ by reaching out to the marginalized and address the needs where we find them.”

When you give to the Human Relations Day offering, you support ministries like Exodus House that break the cycles of addiction, incarceration and hopelessness around the world. Your gifts change lives and restore communities.

— By Philip Brooks and Zack Conover, former interns with United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

To learn more about the Human Relations Day Sunday offering click here. To give to the Human Relations Day Sunday offering to help programs like this one click here.