Early August will mark my 12th year of working here at Harvest Farm. I’ve held four different positions during my time here, and I’ve seen this place and its people from almost every angle. We have had our share of tragedies, death and heartbreak. We have learned together how to push through these dark times and come out on the other end of our grief wounded but still whole. And we have also had a myriad of encounters with the miraculous, where spirits are visibly moved, hearts and souls are healed, and lives are renewed.

J’s Way  
Even after all this time on the farm, I am still always awed when I get the privilege of witnessing a participant graduate from our program. Just last week, I sat among the rest of the farm body, both staff and participants, as well as numerous other supporters and watched yet another man I’ll call “J” launch into a new life. When I first met J, on the first day he stepped on to this property, I could tell he was going to be one of our tougher participants. Shaved head, bulging arms, dark and intense eyes, and even a tattoo on his face the size of a baby’s hand. He was simply a scary dude. And that is exactly what J wanted to be, because he knew that if he could look tough enough, intimidating enough, no one would get close to him and he could be left alone. He wanted nothing to do with other people. He certainly did not want to be loved; love was too hard to accept, too hard to trust, and he learned early on in his life that love made a person vulnerable to pain and abandonment.

We made him rethink that.

Shedding It All 

In his 14 months here at the farm, he gradually shed it all. During his graduation speech, with his once estranged mother sitting front and center, teary eyed and joyful, he listed the names of people he had known during his time here who had helped and cared for him. He spoke of staff members, participants he had known, his boss, mentor, and the countless other members of the community who had come out to support him. After each name, J said the three words I couldn’t ever imagine coming out of his mouth the day I first met him: He said, “I love you.” And perhaps more importantly, those people said “I love you” right back to him, and he accepted their love.

Nothing Is Permanent
As one of our staff members wisely remarked during the graduation ceremony, nothing is permanent. No despair is too deep to swim out of, as long as there is a hand to grab onto that can help pull you out of it. No darkness it too dark, no life is beyond repair. I believe this; I know this. That tattoo on his face? It’s gone. Not a trace of it remains. One of J’s goals during his time here was to remove that mark from his face so that he would no longer be immediately judged as someone he no longer was, and he did it. It was a long, painful process, but he was determined, and the tattoo is gone. The old mark of the old life has disappeared. Nothing is permanent. Change is not only possible, but attainable and within our grasp if we only take the opportunities we are given.

J (right) with his New Life Program chaplain, Jason Bryant, on graduation day.

To learn more about the New Life Program at Harvest Farm and read more stories of lives changed, visit www.HarvestFarm.net.