When inmates are released from jail or prison, often they have nowhere to go except back to the environment that led them to jail. An Assemblies of God chaplain and AG U.S. Missions candidate missionary in Iowa recognizes the shortage of residential homes for those struggling with addiction, and is starting one herself.
Kimberly A. Crawford incorporated the nonprofit Circle of Freedom in February 2020 in Corydon, Iowa. It began as a weekly Bible study in 2012 at Wayne County Jail with the support of the church Crawford attends, New Beginnings Worship Center. At the time, the county jail had a Bible study for men, but not women.
“God has always placed people in my life who were struggling with addiction,” says Crawford, 56. “I love to watch what Jesus does when He sets a woman free and restores her life; it’s so miraculous.”
One person she’s seen transformed through the jail ministry is Teresa Luncsford. Luncsford grew up in a broken home where she experienced multiple forms of abuse.
She gave birth to her first baby at age 15, and four more by early adulthood. She often ended up homeless, spent time in jail, struggled with addiction, and lost relationships with all of her kids. During a stay at the Wayne County Jail, Luncsford attended one of Crawford’s Bible studies.
“She had no facial expression, and didn’t respond really,” Crawford remembers. “But she kept coming back every week and I could slowly see her countenance start to change. Then she gave her life to the Lord.”
Once freed, New Beginnings Worship Center sponsored Luncsford’s stay at a faith-based women’s residential home in Missouri. Inmates in Wayne County who knew Luncsford warned Crawford that Luncsford probably would flee. But she didn’t.
“Kim called out to me in obedience to God and helped me, even when others told her not to bother with me,” Luncsford says. “She had faith in me that I didn’t have in myself. She showed me love that I didn’t know was real.”
Luncsford completed the residential center program in 14 months, and then stayed on as a staff member for another 18 months. Now, Luncsford has been sober since 2015, takes care of her two youngest sons, holds a full-time job, and attends church regularly.
In addition to jail ministry, Crawford, meets frequently for mentoring and biblical counseling with women recently released from jail.
“They need continued help,” says Crawford, an endorsed chaplain who expects to be ordained as a minister in April. “They need a women’s residential home.”
Opening a women’s home has been a dream of Crawford’s for a long time. She felt a calling to work full time with women struggling with addiction. After 35 years of working for the USDA Farm Service Agency — as chief program technician, as an administrator, and in human resources — Crawford is in the process of opening the residential home for women.
A series of remarkable events allowed Circle of Freedom to buy a building in Seymour, Iowa.
Formerly a nursing home, its owner had many properties. Upon his death, the man’s family sold the properties in packages. Those who bought the nursing home package didn’t want that building, so they donated it to the city.
A local school moved into the property temporarily when a tornado hit its building in 2017. The home already had a new roof, and the school had to replace its windows and doors. Two years after the school left, God provided funds for Circle of Freedom to purchase it.
Crawford has a team of 20 volunteers from around the community, including longtime friend Kathy Schick, a local photographer who has volunteered with the Bible studies. Schick will teach photography, video, and cooking classes for the women at Circle of Freedom.
“I’ve seen Kimberly’s faith grow tremendously,” says Schick. “She knows this is so big that she can’t even think about doing this on her own.”
In addition to raising a $200,000 annual operating budget, Circle of Freedom still needs an estimated $150,000 worth of renovations inside, including new heating and cooling, plumbing, bathrooms, flooring, painting, and a kitchen before opening. Once operational, the facility will have room for a dozen women.
Lead Photo: Kimberly Crawford (right) participates in a biblical counseling session.
Bottom Photo: Teresa Luncsford has re-established ties with her sons Robbie and Alex.