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Grant and Shannon’s Mission Year Newsletter for June

Finishing Strong

by Shannon Jenks

As we quickly approach our last month here and the heat continues to climb to record heights, we have been consistently encouraged by our leaders to finish our year strong. And we sure have been doing that!

I’ve been teaching environmental science workshops at the Emmaus House Summer Camp. I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know about 100 more kids in the neighborhood. I think their favorite activity so far was making mini compost bins with real worms! I hope some of the kids realize that science can be fun even though it’s hard.

We’ve been working hard on our garden and have even been able to eat some cucumber and green beans. A lot of our produce has been stolen but at least fresh fruits and vegetables are entering our community anyway.

A week ago instead of inviting people over to our house for dinner we had a cookout next to our garden. It was a lot of fun and we met so many new people. Offering food to people is a great way to start conversations.

It’s been incredibly hot here but we hope to continue our mission of community with our neighbors up until the end of the year.

Hanging out with several of the 3rd graders at summer camp.

Hanging out with several of the 3rd graders at summer camp.

Reflecting on GJP

By Grant Jenks

This month I will make my last prison visit to a client for my service year at the Georgia Justice Project (GJP). In total this year, I’ve made over 60 visits to 25 clients at about two dozen prisons. While I’m glad to be concluding my service (I still flinch and cringe each time I hear the bolts of the gates snap behind me), there are a number of clients who I will miss.

Mr. J had already dropped out of High School and joined a gang at sixteen years old. One fateful morning, armed robbery became murder and Mr. J was sentenced to Life with Parole. Now behind bars for more than 30 years, he describes the tragic morning with total sobriety. In his words, I hear his painful awareness that no amount of hard work can turn back time or bring someone back from the dead. But he has taken the advice of GJP to heart: that the best restitution he can make is a reformed life. While incarcerated, Mr. J has taken every reform class he can and even completed the test for his GED twice; to improve his score and show a commitment to lifelong learning and improvement.

Mr. Y has also served now more than 30 years for a charge of murder. Several years ago he testified in the killing of a fellow inmate that occurred as he was trapped by the perpetrators in his cell. While his testimony secured a conviction for the prosecution, he now fears retribution from the gang whose members he testified against. He says that serving these last few years in Protective Custody has been the hardest time he has yet served. And he prays for the day that he is paroled and can rejoin his mother before she passes away. GJP remains an advocate for Mr. Y simply by documenting, through my visits, the treatment and dangers he faces daily.

Mr. A isn’t an old-timer like the other two. I visit him in a juvenile center where he is working to earn a High School diploma. Though he too serves for murder, his situation affords the opportunity for parole much sooner. At one visit, he described his experience in prison like dying. He said that “on the outside” everyone speaks of A as if he “were.” They say, “Remember A, he used to …” But I remind him that one day he’ll be free and then he won’t be dead anymore. It will be like a resurrection, I tell him. I challenge him to think how he will choose to live, resurrected?

I walked into this year never having met a murderer. And I walk out of it with three examples of people who I would not define by their greatest mistake. In the Old Testament, we don’t remember Moses for the Egyptian he murdered or David for the killing of Uriah. God’s mercy and forgiveness is there to cover the greatest transgressions. And in Jesus, we can know the true resurrection.

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Praises & Requests

  • Shannon’s hard work finding a job has paid off. She will be working as a chemistry and physics teacher at Downtown College Prep in San Jose! Thank you so much for your prayers!
  • We both have been sick this month. Please pray for our health so we can finish strong!

Our garden keeps on growing and growing!

Our garden keeps on growing and growing!

We took several neighborhood kids to a barbeque at St. Peter and Paul Episcopal Church. Right to left: Tyquecia, Onya, Kondarius, Peter, Thomas, and Maliq.

We took several neighborhood kids to a barbeque at St. Peter and Paul Episcopal Church. Right to left: Tyquecia, Onya, Kondarius, Peter, Thomas, and Maliq.

How to Make a Donation

You may either use the enclosed envelope or you can donate securely online. Whenever you make a donation, be sure to include our Team Member Name and Support ID Number. Those are:

  • Team Member Name: Grant and Shannon Jenks
  • Support ID Number: 11-9031

Visit in your web browser to make a donation online. Make checks payable to “Mission Year” and include our Support ID Number in the memo line. Donations are tax deductible.