Curtis King (’15)
A friend and I used to joke, “Glad it wasn’t a snake!” when either of us was looking for something that was much closer than we realized. Upon reflection, I saw that the same could be said of the one’s calling, or at least direction on the next phase of life’s journey.
Prior to enrolling in ACU’s Graduate School of Theology’s Master of Arts in Christian Ministry’s program, I lived in Atlanta, Georgia, where I served as the community relations director of the Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company. I was engaged in ministry program leadership at the Simpson Street Church of Christ and wanted to deepen my theological knowledge. My GST entrance essay reflected the fact that I wanted to curate ministry information and resources that could be passed on to local leaders and teachers, who, for various reasons, would not enroll in formal studies. I was blessed to have such an opportunity as the coordinator, and later, the associate director of the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry which was established at ACU to equip church leaders and interested members with tools and resources to support the work of local congregations.
While in the GST, I found the classes formidable and enlightening. Looking back, I can imagine some of my friends rolling their eyes at the thought that someone would mention church history in my presence. It was one of my favorite areas of study and every time the subject arose, I had plenty to say! In Supervised Research in Missions, Instructor Kent Smith assigned us to design a mission project that focused on serving a local cause. I decided to design a program that would facilitate more comprehensive access to information on resources relevant to returning citizens, formerly incarcerated persons reentering the greater community following their release. I got an “A” for the assignment and moved on to the next class. However, the ideas and possibilities generated by the assignment never left me.
About three years later, I met with the director of the Abilene District Parole Office, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice chaplain serving West Texas, the director of ACU’s Marriage and Family Institute, and a formerly incarcerated friend. I shared my vision. That meeting turned out to be part of the beginning of the Big Country Reentry Coalition, an organization whose mission is “to facilitate and support the successful return of formerly incarcerated individuals to the community.”
I recently returned to Atlanta. Influenced greatly by my years of witnessing the positive effects of arts experiences and my newfound appreciation for working alongside returning citizens, I co-founded the Reentry Arts Connection “to connect people impacted by the justice system to the healing and life-changing power of the arts.” I was excited that the next phase of my journey had begun!
As I was preparing to write this blog, I decided to revisit the entrance essay that I submitted to the GST back in 2012 and made an unexpected discovery. There it was in black and white (emphasis added):
I serve as the drama minister, working closely with the music minister to create and execute arts-based programs for the congregation…Unofficially, I work with individuals with varying issues such as substance-abuse, incarceration, unemployment and homelessness — sometimes simply providing encouragement for positive efforts and at other times assisting with the location of resources.
Well, I guess it’s official now – it seems I travelled nearly a thousand miles and back to see what was right in front of me the whole time.
Glad it wasn’t a snake!
The best educational institutions do not impose their ideas but provide resources, guidance and discipline to enable students to find their gifts. May God bless your work to lift up and restore to honor those who have been imprisoned.