I had understood that the old Caryville Work Camp was being used for a Christian ministry, but I learned more when Minister Michael Thompson visited the blueberry farm this week.
He is the director of The Masters Forge located at the former work camp. He explained the significance of the name.
The prison bars have actually been cut away and the men who are now residing there are being set free from the bondage known as addiction by Gods forge. Instead, they are being shaped into men of character and integrity through accountability to each other, to the director, to God, and to themselves. A structure of daily Bible study, prayer, and worship coupled with personal commitment are requirements.
The twelve-month program currently houses 20 men ranging in age from 35 to 45. They have had residents as young as 20 and at the present time there is one resident over 60. The program is designed to be completed in 12 months and those who actually complete the time there have a good record of recidivism.
Those who finish the program stay clean. About 30 to 40 percent stay and finish. They may stay on for another 6 months or a year to train for a specific job. Many were homeless when they came so the difficult job of reentering society, finding a job and a place to live appreciate the extra time there.
The only paid employee is the director Michael Thomas assisted by his wife Shirley, who is also involved with a ministry for women, Beauty For Ashes, located on Highway 179 at the old Camp Ground site north of the Gritney Community. The Thomases have a 13-year-old daughter. The director of that is Amy Adams.
Director Thomas himself is a recovering addict who grew up during the 60s and fancied himself a Hippy.
He lived that kind of life trying everything that scene had to offer and eventually becoming addicted to heroin and was facing jail. Instead, someone took him to a Pentecostal Revival where he experienced many people getting saved but did not himself surrender. However, he woke up the next morning with a desire to read the Bible and 2 Timothy 2 Study to show thyself approved a workman that needeth not to be ashamed spoke to him.
He eventually enrolled at Teen Challenge, still stoned, but through the discipline, Bible study, accountability of other residents God called him into ministry. His background was Assembly of God, so he was ordained by that faith.
However, The Masters Forge is non-denominational.
It is under the umbrella of Harvest Vineyard ministry whose congregation also meets at the old Work Camp in Caryville. The pastor is Alex Thompson, brother to Michael. They hold worship services on Sunday afternoon at 2:30 P.M. with Bible Study on Tuesday and Thursday. The public is invited to any and all of these.
For more information call:
The Masters Forge Director Michael Thomas 850-797-1318
Harvest Vineyard Ministries Pastor Alex Thomas 850-682-6447
Beauty For Ashes Director Ann Adams 850-826-4285