Not Retired, but Re-Fired

How one man’s near-death experience is transforming a New England community

A common story in the evangelical culture is the testimony of a person saved from sin and brokenness – perhaps from addiction or poverty. But an equally debilitating prison – and one that is perhaps more common in the affluent West — is the bondage of success and self-satisfaction.

God calls such people – as Bob Buford wrote in his book Half-Time – from “success to significance.”

That was the call Bill Beattie heard. Beattie had been a Christian most of his life, and by the 1990s he was nearing the end of a long and successful career, living in Danbury, Conn. He had climbed the corporate ladder at the global giant Union Carbide before leaving to start his own successful company. Life was good. He could afford expensive vacations anywhere in the world. But on one of those vacations, to Africa, he and his wife were canoeing on a hippo- and crocodile-infested river when they struck a log and capsized. A crocodile came toward Beattie, but turned away at the last minute.

As we reported in a BreakPoint commentary in 2017, “Around the campfire that evening, Bill reflected on what had happened that day. It was extraordinary, he says, ‘that the croc did not attack and drag me to the bottom. I sensed that God had intervened on my behalf to save me for His purposes.’”

So, when Beattie returned home to Connecticut, he decided to start a mentoring program with four boys he knew. He enrolled a few other Danbury businessmen to help, as well as a local church. If that effort went well, he decided, he would add five teens and five mentors the next year. He managed the program according to the principles that had made him a success in the corporate world. He trained the mentors and tracked what worked and what did not work. The things that worked were quickly passed along to the other mentors at 6:30 am meetings he held in the board room of his business.

But there were failures, too. They learned from the failures and jettisoned practices that seemed like good ideas at the time, but which in fact were not helpful.

“Mentoring was a solution we could get to very quickly,” Beattie told WORLD. He said it was something he and other business leaders could do while still keeping their day jobs.

But the kind of success Beattie and the other mentors were having started to attract attention. Now, 20 years later, that mentoring program is called Pathways Danbury Youth Ministries, a six-year program that now serves 50 middle-school and high-school boys and girls with one-on-one mentoring and tutoring.

Other programs followed. Beattie and Cedric Rice, an early mentor, started a Christian school for boys. Every student at the school lives in a household below the poverty line, yet the graduation rate is 96 percent. According to the WORLD article, “Of the first 11 boys who started at Pathways Academy a decade ago, five had fathers in prison. All but one of the boys graduated high school, and all the graduates went on to college or technical programs.”

Other churches became involved, 26 in all, and more ministries started, or came under the influence of Beattie and his team. Beattie formed Jericho Partnership as the organizational umbrella for all these ministries, which now include pediatric healthcare, counseling, addiction recovery, housing, and meals. A pregnancy resource center performed 566 ultrasounds in 2016 and estimates it saved about 300 unborn babies from abortion.

Many of these ministries now fall under the umbrella of a larger organization Beattie developed, called Jericho Partnership. Other ministries that are not directly accountable to Jericho Partnership get to use the group’s building rent-free. Today, Jericho Partnership has a paid staff of 11 people, plus more than 1,700 people who volunteer annually. The budget for the organization is about $3.3-million. An important part of the budget comes from the local churches, who pay $5 per member to be one of Jericho’s partners.

And what about that first young man Beattie mentored, soon after he pulled himself out of that African river more than 20 years ago? His name is Charneil Bush. He finished high school, finished college, and is now working on a graduate degree. But the path has not always been smooth. In 2015 Bush lost his job and went without work for months. But he called Beattie, and they walked through that crisis together.

In fact, Beattie – who is now 80 years old and still active in the ministry — says he has learned as much from Charneil Bush as Bush has learned from him. Beattie told WORLD: “I’m still mentoring him and he’s still mentoring me.”

 

Editor’s Note: Jericho Partnership was recently named the northeast regional winner of WORLD’s Hope Award for Effective Compassion. To watch a short, powerful video of Charneil Bush’s powerful testimony of the role of mentoring on his own life, click here.

This article is one in a series based on the ideas in the book Restoring All Things:  God’s Audacious Plan To Change The World Through Everyday People by Warren Cole Smith and John Stonestreet.  To see all the articles in this series, click here.  If you know of an individual or ministry that might make a good “Restoring All Things” profile, please email wsmith@colsoncenter.org

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