On a Saturday evening earlier this year, a group of men filed into the Worship Center, slid into a section of seats right up front, and waited for the opening notes of the evening’s worship time.
The men held nothing back, singing exuberantly, hands lifted high, as they give praise to the One who saved them. They come from Outcry in the Barrio in South Dallas, a Christian outreach organization that ministers to people struggling with addiction. Founded in San Antonio, the organization provides rehabilitation services and biblical teaching.
As always, Teaching Pastor Jarrett Stephens welcomed them warmly from the pulpit.
“I love having the guys from Outcry in the Barrio in our Worship Service,” Jarrett said. “They are expressive and approach worship with an honesty and intensity that is both refreshing and challenging.
“Most of these men haven’t grown up in church and so the idea of being reserved or quiet is not something they grew up in or are familiar with,” he said. “Each has come out of a lifestyle of sin and brokenness and has found freedom in their relationship with Christ, so their excitement is both energetic and contagious.
“They enhance our Worship Service greatly and help us to make as much of Jesus as they do.”
On this particular Saturday, the men of Outcry sat together in one section. But Jarrett shook things up.
We’re all part of one church, he said, and we all belong to the One, True God, so we should all worship together. And with that, he beckoned the men to leave their usual spots and to spread out across the front of the worship center.
In moments, they were scattered among the crowd, side by side with fellow worshipers.
“There’s a mutual edification that takes place in having them in the service,” Jarrett said. “While we are different and from ‘different sides of the street,’ we share a love in Jesus that bonds us together and makes us stronger.”
The late Freddie Garcia and his wife, Ninfa, founded Outcry in the Barrio in San Antonio four decades ago. Pastor Garcia was a recovering drug addict, and Jesus Christ radically changed his life.
“(The Garcias) decided to open their home to people,” said Marcus Laughlin, a longtime-Prestonwood member and an early advocate for Outcry in North Texas.
Today, the the Garcias’ son, Jubal, leads the international ministry. There are Outcry satellite locations throughout Texas, and places such as New Mexico, California, Mexico and South America.
If people need a place to stay and battle their addiction, the doors are open to them.
The relationship between Outcry in the Barrio and the people of Prestonwood goes back more than a decade.
“Our (Bible Fellowship) class was looking for an outreach, and at that time, the men of Outcry were meeting right off Fitzhugh Avenue near Fair Park,” Marcus said. “So we went down and taught a Bible study every Monday night for about 12 years.
“We disciple about 15 men who have completed a program and are back in the workplace,” Marcus said. “They’re all at a different stage of life. Some are fresh off the streets, hooked on heroin or crack cocaine. They have a process to get them off the particular drug or alcohol, they provide the men with a free place to stay, and they feed and clothe them and introduce them to Jesus Christ.”
Even more critical, Jarrett forged a relationship with Pastor Billy Island, who leads Outcry Dallas and pastors its church Metanoya. Billy’s story is the epitome of what the ministry can do in the life of the lost.
“I actually came into Outcry in 2004 in need of help because I had become a drug addict,” Billy said. “That wasn’t one of my aspirations. I was on a fast track to get into college as a football star. But somewhere I got involved with gangs and I started drinking and doing drugs, and I was just partying.
“My grandmother always told me, ‘There’s something special about you,’ but I’d just shake it off and live the life I desired to live at the time,” he said.
That life led Billy to prison when he was 22. And since he was a gang member, he was placed in solitary confinement.
“I was there for 19 months,” Billy said. “And I finally came to the conclusion that all the excuses I was making and everyone I was blaming weren’t the problem. I had to conclude it was me. I was the problem. And at that moment, I began reading God’s Word.
“It was God who kept me,” he said.
When he left prison, Billy knew God, but he realized he didn’t know how to live for God.
“I had no point of reference,” he said. “I grew up around people who were criminals. No one had jobs, but everyone had houses and cars and things like that. I didn’t even know what a Christian looked like.
“So when I got out (of prison), I lived the life I knew. I became a drug addict all over again.”
While he was in prison, Billy wrote letters to his family, about how he would change his life when he was finally released. It didn’t happen.
“My sister came in one day with a shoebox, a Reebok shoebox filled with my letters, and she threw them at me, crying. She said, ‘Remember all this that you said?’”
Billy said he wanted to change, but didn’t know how. And he slipped back into the only life he’d known.
“I’m not pleased to say that I got into altercations, guns, shootouts,” Billy recalled. “But one day, I ran to my sister’s house and she didn’t want to let me in, but thank God my niece was there and she opened the door.
“I’d been hardened from drugs, from seeing murders, from violence, and I hadn’t cried in years,” he said.
“But that day, I was looking for help and I called a lot of places and they were telling me ‘There’s a fee; do you have insurance?’ I didn’t have insurance. I didn’t have money. I didn’t have the means to change.”
He didn’t know what to do. But by chance, he met a woman on the street who told him about Outcry and said there was no charge.
“I called that number and I walked through the doors, and they introduced me to Jesus Christ. They walked me step by step on how to be a Christian, for six years, in-depth, until it was embedded in my system.”
Still, it wasn’t easy.
“Some people turn around immediately, but for me, there were some deeply rooted hurts and pains and addictions and character defects that had me totally distorted,” Billy said.
“They were giving me the biblical principles of life. You know when people talk about ‘a baby Christian’? I really was a baby when it came to faith in God.”
But he grew in his faith with help from the men from Prestonwood, and after about a year, he felt God’s calling to be a minister.
“Personally, Jarrett Stephens and I are good friends,” Pastor Billy said. “He’s been nurturing us over the last four-and-a-half years, and Marcus Laughlin and (another longtime Prestonwood member) Jeff Brownlee have been very involved with us.
“We are part of the Prestonwood Network and we’ve joined hands with Prestonwood,” Billy said.
Prestonwood members helped the new congregation to build a church in the Pleasant Grove area of Dallas, he said. And the strong relationship between the men of Prestonwood and Outrcy continues.
David Shivers, Associate Pastor of Local & Global Missions & Evangelism, has helped to strengthen the bond between the congregations.
“I asked once when I was down there if they wanted to come up to Prestonwood for Friday Morning Men’s Bible Study,” he said. “They did, and they bring that same joy on Friday mornings as they do on Saturday nights.
“They turn it up! They’re like one big thermostat,” David said. “It’s fantastic!”
Marcus said it’s been a blessing to have some part in this great relationship between Prestonwood and Outcry.
“We went down thinking we would disciple those men,” he said, “and we found out it was a two-way street.”
Published: Sept. 25, 2019
Author: Michael Young
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