By Gayla Parker, BCM/D WMU Executive Director, Missionary for Missions Education and Customization, Missions Innovator Specialist (WMU, SBC)
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Matthew 9:37
Most of us look forward to retirement, no matter how many years away it might be, and the joy of taking life easy. But what if retirement happens to come just in time to bring in “the harvest?” That is just what happened in the lives of Dick and Nicki Benz. For them retirement means finally having time for full time ministry.
In 1999 Nicki heard a report on the local news station about women who had been arrested multiple times for the same crimes; prostitution, drug use, drug dealing. She began praying that God would send someone to help these women. Little did she know that God would be sending her!
Nicki walked into the jail the first time with nothing but the chocolate candy “Treasures”, a conviction to start a Bible Study, and compassion for the women inside the bars. She arranged the chairs in the meeting room in a circle. As the 20 women entered she realized they did not look like criminals at all, but more like mothers, daughters, and wives. They were not trash they were treasures. That is when God gave her an idea, “give each woman a ‘Treasure’ and let her know that she is one of my treasures and pray a blessing over her.” That began a ministry that is now more than ten years old.
Nicki went to the jail every week and every week she showed these women love and taught them God’s word. Then one day a woman was released with no place to go. The warden called Nicki and asked if she would be willing to take someone into her home. When Nicki went to talk to her husband she expected his answer to be ‘no’ but instead it was ‘yes’. What was purchased to be their restful retirement home was on its way to being a busy rehabilitation home.
The Benz learned that within 90 days of release most of the women are back in jail. When they are released they have nothing but the clothes they are wearing and drug dealers and pimps waiting for them. Their desire was to find a way for the women to break free of addictions and past influences. From that desire Buried Treasures Home, Inc. was born.
Dick says, “If lasting success is to be achieved, the addict must leave their familiar surrounding, get away from their friends and sometimes family (Romans 12:2a). This means they must get out of town and begin a new life. Women who have been removed from their old environment more quickly settle down to letting Christ begin a new life in them.”
The women are asked to commit to one year at the home. While there they receive weekly counseling, intense Bible Study, Christian 12-step program, and after six months they are placed in an educational program.
Since that first visit hundreds of women and families have been helped through the ministries of Buried Treasures and the volunteers of First Baptist Church, Jackson, Mississippi.
A few summer ago I had the privilege of meeting Nicki and some of the women from Burried Treasure. As I heard each story my heart was broken. One who at 21 had already been in jail three times; her father had abused her most of her life. As she shared her story she glowed with the radiance of Christ in her life. Another was a mother and grandmother. She has almost completed her year. She has a job in place, a home to go to, and for the first time a relationship with her son and grandchild. One was completing college and hoping to begin her own ministry with women in prison. Each life transformed by the love of Christ. Each woman knowing with all of her heart that she is a TREASURE.
At the end of their testimonies they sang and signed the song, “You Raise Me Up”. Each face was aglow with the love of Christ. Each life rescued out of hopelessness and despair to hope and joy. Each life now more blessed than they could have imagined. Each life raised up by the love Christ.
Retirement? Not for Dick and Nicki. There are still treasures that need to be unburied.
For more information about Buried Treasures visit their web site at www.buried treasureshome.com. The Christian author, Terri Blackstock, has written a series inspired by Buried Treasures called “Cape Refuge.” Proceeds go to Buried Treasures Home.