Author: SHARI TVRDIK
When I first met up with Cliff and Sue Parrish again, after so many years away in Mongolia I couldn't help but sit there in tears.
The couple was overflowing with LIFE GIVING stories of transformation.
While I was working in the slums of Mongolia, the Lord had placed my U.S. friends in prison.
Honestly, it was the last place I would have imagined them landing.
When I left for the mission field in 2009 Cliff was headed to the top.
He was an entrepreneur.
Everything he did was innovative, driven and powered with success.
He was the kind of guy who invited you out for ice-cream and left you with the feeling that ice-cream was the bait.
His real goal was to discover what you were created to do with your life.
It was over ice-cream, or maybe it was apple pie, that Cliff did just that to my husband Troy and I in 2002.
We were on a couples date with Cliff and Sue and very naive to the caliber of couple we had chosen to hang out with on a Friday night.
After a brief bout with small talk Cliff asked,
“What do you want to do with your life?” (emphasis on the want).
Unaware that he had poignantly thrown the fun right out of the room and shot to the heart, Cliff stared at us across the table, waiting for our reply.
We were a young couple who had walked a long and tired road.
Cliff and Sue were unaware Troy and I had fought like maniacs before the date because we were behind on bills again.
Christmas was coming and there was never anything left for the dream holiday we were waiting for.
My mind filled with a quick sarcastic reply to Cliff’s question,
“I want to pay my bills and get along with my husband.”
However I wisely kept those words inside with a bite of pie.
Saved by the full mouth, my husband Troy was left to answer.
“I want to help people.” Troy said.
“Children. I want to build an orphanage or work with really wounded people.”
I choked my bite down and grabbed some water.
Troy was a carpenter.
He worked from 4am until after ten some nights.
Our goals were limited to TODAY.
I had never once heard that my husband had a hearts desire to “help people,” or to “build an orphanage.”
Who was this man?
Then, baited and hooked, Cliff rebutted ,
“No you don’t.”
A little surprised by his directness we both sat facing Cliff and Sue as if we had accidentally ended up in a therapy session.
And then he reeled us in.
“We always do what we want to do.
It’s in our nature.
So if you wanted to help people, build and orphanage or work with wounded people,
We went on to defend ourselves a for a bit.
We have four kids.
We’re not really qualified.
We don’t even know any orphans.
We haven’t paid our phone bill this month.
On the way home Troy and I talked about his audacity.
But, that evening stayed.
It stayed somewhere deep inside and began to do it’s work.
The Lord had much more to teach us, but that evening opened Troy and I up to an idea that perhaps God had the ability after all to use even us, to do something maybe a little bit out of the box with our life.
Our thinking changed.
Maybe our want did as well.
We left for the Mongolian mission field seven years later.
My husband did build an orphanage and so much more.
He ended up directing a humanitarian organization and helped a whole lot of wounded people. I ran a shelter for street girls and we planted a church among an un-reached people.
I can trace our ministry back to some pie, and Cliff and Sue Parrish.
And now, nearly seventeen years after that awkward evening Cliff and Sue were in prison.
How did that happen?
Cliff could have done anything.
I imagined him inspiring those at the top to WANT what God wants.
Instead, he and Sue had made the decision to leave his successful business world and walk into the world we all avoid, to the place where people go who have messed up so badly our society has to lock them away.
“Every single day there is a story to tell.” Cliff said.
He was softer now.
Life had curved his edges a bit.
There was a joy behind his eyes and I couldn’t help tearing up in the presence of Cliff and Sue in awe of what God had done.
They told me a story of man they met in prison years ago.
“We liked him.” Cliff told me.
“We gave him money, a job, a home when he got out.”
The story ended with a twist that caught me in the gut.
“He committed suicide.” Cliff said.
“I recognized there had to be a better way to reach people than simply lifting them above their physical circumstances, more was needed.“
Cliff and Sue had gone forward from the loss to developed a course which they called, Foundations For Life, building a foundation from Biblical principles to rescue even the most hopeless man. They began taking their course into US prisons and were profoundly moved by the effect God’s principles had on people.
“People are being TRANSFORMED by God’s word and some don’t even realize it because it’s not overtly ‘Christian’.” Cliff shared.
“Then, they are taking it out of prison and to their families.” Sue said.
So it’s contagious. I thought.
Cliff and Sue were invited into prisons which were known to keep outsiders away.
They were sought after because the results were already coming in. Results beyond what Cliff and Sue themselves had even imagined.
Foundations For Life worked.
“If we reduce recidivism we all win.” Cliff said with a smile on his face.
“Recidivism?” I asked.
“The tendency of a convicted criminal to re-offend.” Cliff educated me.
“I’m motivated by the fact that these guys will be moving into our communities when they get out, what kind of neighbors will they be?”
I asked Cliff and Sue if I could read a story of one of the prisoner's life transformed.
Sue popped open her laptop and took me to a file where there were currently four hundred and sixty stories. Stories the prisoners wrote about themselves.
Letters from prison.
“These are the ones I’ve been able to get on file, there are more I haven’t typed up yet.”Sue said, her eyes all alight with excitement.
Cliff and Sue are Cup of Cold Water missionaries now.
The financial success they were headed towards was a wonderful blessing but this is what they WANTED to do.
They wanted to use their gifts and talents to go beyond their years here.
They wanted to listen to what God WANTED for them and move into that.
“Do you think this would work outside of prison?” I asked.
I had people coming to my mind who I knew would be deeply impacted by a Foundations For Life Course and I would rather them NOT have to go to prison to discover it.
“Absolutely.” Cliff replied.
He went on to tell me how during the development phase of Foundations For Life he had chosen a wide range of people to “test” it on.
One was a highly respected Psychologist whose wife had exclaimed, “This has been the best thirteen weeks of my life.” referring to the impact the course had on her husband.
The problem was, there are only two of them right now. Cliff and Sue Parrish. They were focusing in on the prisons with more offers to share the course throughout the state.
This time, I went on to pressure them.
“But I really believe our community right here could benefit from this, would you consider teaching it?”
They said yes….and then they asked me for ice cream.
Pray for me!
The Foundations For Life Course begins November 5, 2018 right here in Sheridan, IL.
If you have been moved by this story and believe you or someone you love needs transformation (don’t we all!) then please register soon. The link to register is below this article.
The following Stories From The Field editions will be a series of letters written by incarcerated men in the United States. These letters were penned as a response to FREEDOM FROM WITHIN , Foundations For Life - Unleash The Masterpiece, a program developed by CCWM Missionaries Cliff and Sue Parrish to teach how to live Godly principles in such a way that brings contagious life transformation, even within the walls of a prison. Cliff and Sue are taking Freedom From Within to the prisons of the United States and possibly to a church near you. This is Letter #2
"When I first started this class, I was not the type of person who felt comfortable speaking in front of others, specifically crowds, and then I learned how to properly communicate through Foundations For Life. It was then that I started to learn how to understand how to speak publicly in front of others. I also learned how to communicate by listening, using the right tone, and using the right words. It has also given me the right spiritual connection with God, and it has shown me how to really establish a foundation in my household, and with any team that I am trying to develop or be a part of. I am glad that my brother Cliff started this class because he has helped me with this class more than any college degree. This class has shown me how to look within myself in ways I didn’t know how to. I have been able to identify issues that I never knew that I had until I was able to discover myself, and my own issues, through
this class. I have become a better man to my family and my female companion and most of all – God and myself. Foundation For Life is the best thing that has happened to me."
"This class has shown me how to look within myself in ways I didn't know how to."
VISIT US NEXT WEEK FOR LETTER #3
The following Stories From The Field editions will be a series of letters written by incarcerated men in the United States. These letters were penned as a response to FREEDOM FROM WITHIN , Foundations For Life - Unleash The Masterpiece, a program developed by CCWM Missionaries Cliff and Sue Parrish to teach how to live Godly principles in such a way that brings contagious life transformation, even within the walls of a prison. Cliff and Sue are taking Freedom From Within to the prisons of the United States and possibly to a church near you.
"I'm here to tell you that you are of value. You are worth investing time in. I don't care what you've done to get here. It's none of my business. I am here to show you how to unleash the masterpiece that is within you."
These are words I will never forget.
Cliff Parrish, a man I see as a mentor, said these words to a whole class.
I felt as if he was directly talking to me and really he was. I had never heard these words in that way. Let alone spoken to me.
I am 27 years old.
I have been incarcerated since I was 18 years old.
Fatherless home with a loving mom, trying to play both roles while battling her own demons. She is a wonderful mom but just let some things set her very far off course. I grew up hopping around. Never really had a stable father figure except for my Uncle. It was always easy for me to do wrong never right. Through all of this, I never was really taught to have a foundation in my life. It was always "Do good in school, and you can do what you want."
And I did just that most of the time.
Luckily, I ended up in prison. While many people consider this a curse, it has honestly the best thing (Besides my daughter) that has ever happened to me. If it weren't for this, I would have never encountered Foundations for Life.
When I first took "Foundations for Life" I had just accepted Jesus and was trying to get my feet wet into whatever seemed faith-based. I had no idea what I was in for! That was life changing Foundational framework for my life.
Principles and values. Meaningful impact. Authentic friendship. These are just a tiny taste of what you will find in this book.
If you believe in transformation and are seeking it, this is for you! If you think you are of value and even more so if you don't this is for you! Just believing isn't enough.
1Peter 1:13 states "Therefore prepare your minds for action..." Keyword Action, you see, if there is no action behind your belief is there a belief?
Foundations For Life has greatly impacted my life. Every day I walk this beautiful earth.
I am revealing the masterpiece to myself and the to the world though I fail, I am still as Ephesians 2:10.
VISIT US NEXT WEEK FOR LETTER #2
Stories From The Past
Who Writes The Stories?