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Jonathan Perlman, founder of Tradition Senior Living in Houston & Dallas, TX.

According to Susan, the national recidivism rate is between 67% and 77% for men as well as for women.  If women have lived at Exodus Ministries as little as two weeks, the recidivism rate drops to less than 13%.

When Susan Stephens took the job as Executive Director at Exodus Ministries more than six years ago, she focused on the opportunity to use her skill sets:  administration, organization, trouble-shooting.  After being there for a while, she thought to herself, “Oh my.  I’m in prison ministry.”  Nobody, she says, was more surprised.

Today, she is passionate about the ministry.  “There is a story behind every female inmate who is released from prison and comes to Exodus.  My goal now is to help tell their stories—and those of their children.” 

Exodus Ministries is the only non-profit Susan is aware of with such a comprehensive, discipleship program that houses women and their children after the women have been released from prison. “Each woman applies from prison, and if she is a fit, we send an acceptance letter while she is still there.  We send her a bus ticket to Exodus from anywhere in Texas,” said Susan, explaining that the majority are not from the Dallas area.  “These women come here to change their lives.”

And change they do.  According to Susan, the national recidivism rate is between 67% and 77% for men and women.  If women have spent as little as two weeks at Exodus, the recidivism rate drops to less than 13%. 

“Exodus Ministries is a bootcamp for life—and it’s not easy.  We give them the foundation blocks for living, for changing their direction,” says Susan.  Exodus also gives them everything the women could possibly need while they and their children are there for the year-long program. Provisions include a stocked refrigerator and pantry in a fully furnished apartment (beautifully decorated by talented, local volunteers), which is situated in the Exodus complex east of downtown Dallas.

It is an intense program.  There is a life-skills class every evening that includes instruction in parenting, job preparation, budgeting, financial planning, and setting boundaries. Once they have enrolled their children in daycare, preschool or elementary school, the women are expected to find a job, with the search assisted by Exodus. All pay checks are turned in to Exodus Ministries’ bookkeeper, who sets up an account in the resident’s name. This helps her learn to save her money as well as budget.

The non-denominational ministry also requires that the residents participate in “re:generation recovery,” a 12-step program at Watermark, and attend church on Sundays. Currently, they attend First Baptist Church downtown.

While the mothers are occupied, Exodus Ministries provides a Children’s Ministry. “Before Exodus reunites the children with their mothers, the kids have been tossed around and seen too much. Many have anger issues with authority figures,” said Susan.  “Here, they have access to pre-school, day care, and after-school programs, and the Children’s Ministry serves all of the children Monday through Friday while the Moms are in class in the evenings.”

When Susan Stephens took the job as Executive Director at Exodus Ministries more than six years ago, she focused on the opportunity to use her skill sets:  administration, organization, trouble-shooting.  After being there for a while, she thought to herself, “Oh my.  I’m in prison ministry.”  Nobody, she says, was more surprised.

Today, she is passionate about the ministry.  “There is a story behind every female inmate who is released from prison and comes to Exodus.  My goal now is to help tell their stories—and those of their children.” 

Exodus Ministries is the only non-profit Susan is aware of with such a comprehensive, discipleship program that houses women and their children after the women have been released from prison. “Each woman applies from prison, and if she is a fit, we send an acceptance letter while she is still there.  We send her a bus ticket to Exodus from anywhere in Texas,” said Susan, explaining that the majority are not from the Dallas area.  “These women come here to change their lives.”

And change they do.  According to Susan, the national recidivism rate is between 67% and 77% for men and women.  If women have spent as little as two weeks at Exodus, the recidivism rate drops to less than 13%. 

According to Susan, the national recidivism rate is between 67% and 77% for men as well as for women.  If women have lived at Exodus Ministries as little as two weeks, the recidivism rate drops to less than 13%.

“Exodus Ministries is a bootcamp for life—and it’s not easy.  We give them the foundation blocks for living, for changing their direction,” says Susan.  Exodus also gives them everything the women could possibly need while they and their children are there for the year-long program. Provisions include a stocked refrigerator and pantry in a fully furnished apartment (beautifully decorated by talented, local volunteers), which is situated in the Exodus complex east of downtown Dallas.

It is an intense program.  There is a life-skills class every evening that includes instruction in parenting, job preparation, budgeting, financial planning, and setting boundaries. Once they have enrolled their children in daycare, preschool or elementary school, the women are expected to find a job, with the search assisted by Exodus. All pay checks are turned in to Exodus Ministries’ bookkeeper, who sets up an account in the resident’s name. This helps her learn to save her money as well as budget.

The non-denominational ministry also requires that the residents participate in “re:generation recovery,” a 12-step program at Watermark, and attend church on Sundays. Currently, they attend First Baptist Church downtown.

While the mothers are occupied, Exodus Ministries provides a Children’s Ministry. “Before Exodus reunites the children with their mothers, the kids have been tossed around and seen too much. Many have anger issues with authority figures,” said Susan.  “Here, they have access to pre-school, day care, and after-school programs, and the Children’s Ministry serves all of the children Monday through Friday while the Moms are in class in the evenings.”

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“I tell our residents, your past does not define your future.  You are worthy, you matter, God loves you.  “

Susan Stephens

   

Who, one might ask, are these women released from prison?  “These are women who have made some poor choices, but nobody wakes up and says, ‘I’m going to be an addict, go to jail, mess up my life,’” said Susan.  A typical scenario runs like this: the girl was picked up, sent to juvenile detention, got out, then had a child. She gets picked up again, then goes to prison with a couple of felonies. This scenario is often repeated a few times. At that point, she desperately wants to live differently. 

“Most come from highly dysfunctional families,” says Susan.  “I’ve learned that if you are raised in a home with professional people, you often have high hopes of becoming successful, but if you have been raised in a home of drug dealers, addicts, or alcoholics, that is often where you see your life headed. A common thread for several is that their parents or an authority figure would say, ‘I need you to pick up the drugs today.’”

These women see “normal” as educated, professional people, as church goers, and that’s particularly where Susan comes in.  “I have no dramatic background,” she says almost apologetically.  “I’ve never been to prison. I was raised in a strong Christian home.”  Her background includes a degree in child development and a minor in psychology.  She went on to work as an executive administrator out of college, then retired to homeschool two boys, kindergarten through graduation. They have both graduated from college and are quite successful. She and her husband will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in the spring.

For these women, Susan models the ideal—it can be done. God is showing them that she is living proof.  “It’s not just a Hallmark movie—it’s real,” she says. 

After the women graduate, Exodus Ministries cuts them a check with their total earnings for the year, and they take the furniture with them for their new beginning. 

“Their past does not define their future,” says Susan.  “We tell them, you have the opportunity to give your children a different childhood.  You don’t have to repeat what was said to you, done to you.”

So many grateful women keep in touch. It is not uncommon for four to six graduates to drop by within a week just to share their news—or for any reason.  “We are thrilled that for us, family is coming home.  They are ours for life. God does miracles every day,” says Susan, “and we are on the front row.”  Examples of these miracles are told by the women themselves and found on the Exodus Ministries website. Warning: Have tissues handy.

For more information or for ways to donate or to volunteer, see www.exodusministries.org.

By Linda Faulkner Johnston—Tradition Senior Living

Who, one might ask, are these women released from prison?  “These are women who have made some poor choices, but nobody wakes up and says, ‘I’m going to be an addict, go to jail, mess up my life,’” said Susan.  A typical scenario runs like this: the girl was picked up, sent to juvenile detention, got out, then had a child. She gets picked up again, then goes to prison with a couple of felonies. This scenario is often repeated a few times. At that point, she desperately wants to live differently. 

“Most come from highly dysfunctional families,” says Susan.  “I’ve learned that if you are raised in a home with professional people, you often have high hopes of becoming successful, but if you have been raised in a home of drug dealers, addicts, or alcoholics, that is where you see your life headed. A common thread for several is that their parents or an authority figure would say, ‘I need you to pick up the drugs today.’”

These women see “normal” as educated, professional people, as church goers, and that’s particularly where Susan comes in.  “I have no dramatic background,” she says almost apologetically.  “I’ve never been to prison. I was raised in a strong Christian home.”  Her background includes a degree in child development and a minor in psychology.  She went on to work as an executive administrator out of college, then retired to homeschool two boys, kindergarten through graduation. They have both graduated from college and are quite successful. She and her husband will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary in the spring.

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For these women, Susan models the ideal—it can be done. God is showing them that she is living proof.  “It’s not just a Hallmark movie—it’s real,” she says. 

After the women graduate, Exodus Ministries cuts them a check with their total earnings for the year, and they take the furniture with them for their new beginning. 

“Their past does not define their future,” says Susan.  “We tell them, you have the opportunity to give your children a different childhood.  You don’t have to repeat what was said to you, done to you.”

So many grateful women keep in touch. It is not uncommon for four to six graduates to drop by within a week just to share their news—or for any reason.  “We are thrilled that for us, family is coming home.  They are ours for life. God does miracles every day,” says Susan, “and we are on the front row.”  Examples of these miracles are told by the women themselves and found on the Exodus Ministries website. Warning: Have tissues handy.

For more information or for ways to donate or to volunteer, see www.exodusministries.org.

By Linda Faulkner Johnston—Tradition Senior Living

“I tell our residents, your past does not define your future.  You are worthy, you matter, God loves you.”

Susan Stephens

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