May 31, 2023
Walking into the MPowerment classroom at Mission Waco’s Meyer Center, the room where his life was transformed, Isaac looks around in disbelief. Tears fall, and he turns and embraces MPowerent Director Arlanders “Coach” Estelle, MSW, yet again, saying “It worked – everything you told me worked.”
Despite growing up in a loving family, Isaac first walked into the Meyer Center after multiple stints of selling and using drugs, being introduced to meth at work, giving up his daughter, spending three years living on the streets using and selling drugs again, and then finally landing in jail.
During his 11 months in the county jail, Isaac’s cellmate relentlessly and lovingly encouraged him to turn to Jesus. Isaac scoffed at the church stuff, but as he watched a group of inmates gather week after week for Bible study and saw the joy they found even in the midst of their darkest hour, his heart was softened towards God, but trusting himself and others would take much longer. Shortly after joining the Bible study, Isaac was offered five years of probation, was reconnected with his family, and on October 21, 2018, he walked out of jail and into Mission Waco, where Coach was waiting for him.
When Isaac had lived on the street prior to his arrest, he was once provided with a free apartment for several months, but because he wasn’t yet willing to take ownership of both his past and his future, the apartment simply provided a roof over his head while his lifestyle remained the same.
So in coming to Mission Waco, his hope was that Mission Waco would also offer him a free apartment while he figured out what he wanted to do. He was astonished by the arrangement at Mission Waco when he walked into My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) and was required to pay or work just to stay in a large bunk room. He would sleep at MBK and was required to get out of bed early in the morning, walk to the Meyer Center for a hot breakfast and shower, and then he was directed to Coach’s classroom.
Regarding Mission Waco’s approach, Coach says that the goal is for participants to “…seek God wholeheartedly. We want the participants to understand that they cannot do it alone. We are here to be supportive and meet them where they are at. Most people have experienced a catastrophic loss of relationships. People need a hand up, not a handout. We walk with them to a place of recovery to help them regain power and control of their own lives.”
The common threads throughout Isaac’s story are community and empowerment. Between Mission Waco & his church, Isaac was consistently surrounded by people who loved him and reminded him that he could overcome his past – and provided the tools to do it.
Sitting in the Mpowerment classroom together in May of 2023, years after Isaac completed the program, Coach looked at Isaac and laughed, “During class, we all sit around this table together, but I mostly saw the back of Isaac’s head for the first few months. He didn’t want to hear a thing I had to say. But when I saw him, I knew who God created him to be… But I also knew he was fixin’ to be a problem.”
Coach knew what he saw, and both Coach and Meyer Center Director Jerrod Clark continued to love and encourage him. It wasn’t just life and job skills training offered through Mpowerment courses, but Coach and Isaac recall long after-hours conversations about God, transformation, second chances, and the power of the Gospel.
“They made sure I knew two things every day: One, that it was up to me to change, and two, that God loved me.”
Eventually Isaac, through his Mpowerment program, was able to secure a job and move into extended stay space at Mission Waco, which offered him more freedom and responsibility, where he paid rent and remained for three months before fully launching into society. He moved into a home, and his church, Rock of My Salvation, surrounded him with love and encouragement, and continued to champion him with the same words of empowerment he’d heard at Mission Waco.
When asked where he would be if he hadn’t spent time with Mission Waco, Isaac replied without hesitation, again through tears, “In jail. Absolutely in jail.” But if you speak to him today, he sounds much more like a seasoned minister than a man with years on the streets and a criminal record.
Today he is a loving father reconciled with his daughter, an employee of five years at his job, a renter in stable housing, a man of God involved in his church, and a living testimony – giving back, serving those who are going through the trials he’s overcome.
“When I do things for others, it always brings me right back here to Mission Waco,” he says as we walk away from the Meyer Center. “And it’s a reminder of what God can do in every life.”