Pastor’s Mission to Set Children Up for Success |

2022-06-28 12:46:44 By : Ms. Bella Zhang

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Michael Phillips is on a mission to transform lives. He says, “My personal passion and heart is for humanity as a whole. My call shows individuals that human lives are redeemable.” He believes that starts with changing the education system, the same one that once crushed his own dreams.

Michael recalls, “When I was six-years-old, for a career day I decided to emulate Thurgood Marshall for my project. My teacher leaned over to me and told me that I would never be able to be a lawyer, that that would never happen. At that time the only thing I could feel was anger.”

Coming up in the inner-city schools of Baltimore, Michael was continually told he had no future despite getting good grades and being a standout athlete. He recalls, “I was constantly being told I would end up in jail. I would not amount to anything. For a long time those words sat on me because they became compounded by the additional words that people would speak over my life.”

Michael would prove them wrong and graduated high school with a 4.0 and a full-ride college basketball scholarship. Then, just before his freshman semester, a violent car crash left him so badly injured it cost him his scholarship. He says, “I literally felt my life was done because I had tied my future and my destiny to making it as an athlete. The emotional trauma and stress of not being able to be a basketball player was extremely overwhelming to me.”

Although he still went to school, the depression became too much. Michael dropped out and returned home to Baltimore where he turned to the only option he thought he had: selling drugs. Michael says, “As a little kid when you wanted to see a successful person that looked like you, you would go down to the corner to those guys who were selling drugs, because they looked successful and they looked like they were having fun and they had the cars and they had the clothes. And so this was my only shot then, to take matters in my own hands and try to make the best out of a bad hand that I was dealt.”

A year later Michael was on the run from the FBI. Finally, he turned himself in, thinking he’d get a light sentence as a first-time offender. Instead, he was charged with a racketeering crime that carried a minimum of 30 years. He recalls, “I thought I would spend the rest of my life in jail. I literally thought it was over. This is it. Every word that they said about me has come true. All I could feel my first night in jail was a betrayer. I betrayed all of those people: my grandparents, my parents. All of the people who fought for me to have a life, I have failed them.”

Then, before his trial started, a judge said he saw potential in Michael, dismissed the charges, and gave him a second chance at college. Later that year, on the floor of his dorm room at Oral Roberts University, Michael surrendered his life to God. He recalls, “It was almost like a death and a resurrection. My life changed ever since.”

Michael graduated and went on to be a successful businessman, then pastor in Baltimore for 19 years. Recently he joined bishop T.D. Jakes’ ministry working to reform the education process so every child’s potential can be cultivated. He says, “I like to work at the prevention end, where you’re doing all that you can do to prevent a child from ever experiencing some of the things I experienced, regardless of where they live, that that community, that district has a high-quality school that is supporting that child’s potential and future.”

Michael is also working to take what’s known as the “Texas Offenders Re-entry Initiative” nationwide. Started by The Potter’s House church in Dallas, its goal is to empower ex-offenders to maximize their potential and increase their opportunities for successful re-integration into society. He says, “Is that life disposable or is it redeemable? Are we building a culture of punishment or are we building a culture of possibility? And if it’s the latter, then that life that might have went off track, might have found their self in the wrong lane, should not be disposable, right? We should be able to turn that life around restoratively.”

Michael believes that everyone can affect positive change by just being empathetic to people around them. “People are hurting and one of the ways to heal that hurt is to hear it first. Find out, ‘Where does it hurt?’ And see what you can do about it and see how you can help. Prayer goes a long way. To say to somebody, 'I’m praying for you, I’m really praying for you.' If you were in their position what would you do? That’s all I’m asking for, for us to look at people’s lives and not go, ‘What?’ but ask ‘Why?’ Not say, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ But rather, ‘What happened to you?’ That’s what I’m trying to get at because when we have that level of empathy it’s going to make it really hard for all of us to fall back into what’s normal, to fall back into "status quo" and to keep looking at society as, "It-is-what-it-is" type of thing. It can get better. It certainly can get better, absolutely.”  

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For the life of every living thing is in his hand, and the breath of every human being.