What began as a life-saving ministry to rescue lost souls addicted to drugs and alcohol has blossomed into a full-fledged ministry and campus that houses individuals from across the Mid-South and offer them a path to start a new life.
That new life is the Lord Jesus Christ, said Landon Wise, an instructor with John 3:16 Ministries based in Jonesboro, Ark.
Wise is enlisting the help of people from across the Mid-South to spread the word about the "Community Fest" annual fundraiser for John 3:16 Ministries slated for Aug. 18 at First National Bank Arena in Jonesboro, Ark.
"We began 15 years ago in May of 2003," Wise said, adding that since its opening John 3:16 has often made the difference in life-and-death situations, be it spiritual or physical. "We lift the name of Jesus Christ first and always put Him first. We put the lives of others first. That's what John 3:16 is all about."
The "Community Fest" is an opportunity to feed the greater Mid-South community both literally and spiritually.
"We expect to feed about 8,000 people," said Wise. "Our band will play — the John 3:16 Band — which is made up of residents."
Less than eight years ago, Wise found himself knocking on the door of John 3:16.
"I came in October of 2010," Wise said. "I had a horrible pain pill and meth addiction. I was raised by a great family but I had fallen by the wayside. I was in jail for the fourth time and my dad said something has got to change. On Oct. 17, 2010, I got changed."
Wise said residents who come to John 3:16 bring all sorts of talents and gifts with them when they arrive. Some are gifted musicians. Some are artists. Most are individuals from all walks of life seeking to make a major change in their lives.
An increasing number of residents on the John 3:16 campus come from DeSoto County, like Jonathan Benson, 32, of DeSoto County and Dillon Gore, son of Greg Gore of Hernando and Ronna Gore of Senatobia and the grandson of Diane Smith and the late Lester Smith.
"I've been battling with addiction since I was 17," Benson said. "I spent most of my 20s in prison and rehab. I got clean then relapsed and backslid. My parents go to church with Sheriff Bill Rasco and he intervened in my situation."
For Dillon Gore, his spiral into addiction began during a time when he lost his twin brother Dalton in a car accident three years ago.
"I grew up in the church with my grandmother but I never really knew who Jesus Christ was before I came to John 3:16," Gore said. "They have helped me realize what Jesus can do for all those who follow Him. I was living in darkness for so long. It has taught me what Jesus is about — day in and day out."
Gore has a one-and-a--half year-old son who he named Dalton in honor of his late brother. It was his brother's loss that caused him to try to numb the pain with addictive, mind-altering substances.
John 3:16 has allowed him to turn his life around.
"It's a lot easier to touch a person and help them break a bad habit by focusing on something good when something bad is holding them down. There is no such thing as hopelessness."
Michael Carter, 36, of Pine Bluff, Ark., said John 3:16 has completely turned his life around.
"I was in addiction before I came to John 3:16," Carter said. "I was probably a couple of months from death. My parents convinced me to just come in and go through an interview. I knew who Jesus was but when you come to John 3:16, you learn what a true relationship with Jesus is. I no longer want alcohol or anything to do with it. What I want is Jesus."
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252