Rags, Riches & Real Success

  Twenty-six years ago I was in Omaha, Nebraska, to speak at the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast. After my talk, I met a man who made an immediate impression on me. He was a genial Midwesterner and a committed Christian with a burden for men and women in prison. His name -- Dallen Peterson. He'd grown up in a hard- working Minnesota farm family. In that mostly Lutheran community, faith and family were central. Though they didn't talk about it much (faith was mostly private), they believed what Martin Luther had taught, that all work is worthy if it's done to the glory of God -- whether it's preaching or scrubbing floors. Well, that first meeting took place before I had started Prison Fellowship, but Dallen was already ministering in the prisons. As I got to know him better, we became fast friends. Dallen was one of the earliest supporters and volunteers in our ministry. He had gotten interested in prison work when a young man his daughter knew was sent to jail. Dallen started visiting him, and during one visit, another inmate, Mel Goebel, spotted him standing with a group of men in the prison yard. Mel said he just had to find out why anybody would come to a prison when they didn't have to. Watching Dallen was enough to bring Mel Goebel to Christ. Dallen then befriended him, mentored him, and helped him through college. Eventually, Mel Goebel joined Prison Fellowship and for twenty years was one of our most dynamic leaders. When we met, Dallen and his wife, Glennis, had just started a small food business, but it lasted only a short while. Through the experience, however, they learned some very important lessons. They later founded Merrie Maids, a housecleaning service which their family pioneered, literally, from the ground up -- with scrub brushes and cleaning rags in hand. Merrie Maids became a huge success, and a Franchise 500 company. When he sold the business to ServiceMaster in 1988, he and his family used what they had learned in ministry and earned in business to serve the Lord full-time. Today, Dallen is a key member of our board and one of my closest confidants. In fact, it was Dallen's vision that encouraged us to begin the InnerChange Freedom Initiative, the first Christian prison to be run in America. So what does a life like this teach us? Dallen Peterson's story, which you can read in his new book, Rags, Riches and Real Success, isn't about some get- rich-quick scheme. And it's not the typical self- congratulation story you'll see in so many celebrity books. It's the story of a man who kept his eyes on the real thing, and discovered the meaning of real success. Dallen's life proves that one person can make a difference. Think of it: He started out leading just one prisoner to Christ. He then discipled him. And that man, in turn, has led hundreds -- maybe thousands -- into the Kingdom. Thank God for Dallen's faithfulness and perseverance. And there is a great lesson here. No matter how overwhelmed we may be by the complexity of modern life, the truth remains: The world is changed one life at a time.


Chuck Colson



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