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Inner-city minister cites his life to show how God redeems ‘junk&#821

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–God is in the recycling business, taking people who might be considered “junk” by others and using them to accomplish his will, the leader of an inner-city ministry said at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Feb. 23.
“God loves taking junk and incorporating it into his will,” said Tom Mahairas, director of the New York ministry City Vision. “He loves taking the most bizarre situation and showing his grace.”
Mahairas, speaking in chapel at the Fort Worth, Texas, seminary, said he sees people every day who have been written off as being past help, but in relating his own experiences he told the students “Jesus can help you right off the bat.”
As a youth, Mahairas said, he was in trouble a lot of the time. By the time he was a young adult, he was using marijuana, cocaine, LSD and heroin. In an attempt to help him, his mother took him to a New York hospital where he was administered electroshock treatments.
“You have to be absolutely insane to think you can connect people to electricity and zap them” to cure them, Mahairas quipped, noting solutions like that are the world’s way of helping.
His ministry works with people who, when the world’s efforts fail, the world gives up on, he said, adding Jesus Christ does not give up and is ready to help, as he did for Mahairas in August 1968.
After one arrest, Mahairas met a man who offered to help, introducing him to the Word of God. After being released from jail, Mahairas continued to read the Scriptures and became a Christian as he realized Christ had died for him. The knowledge inspired him to lead his future wife to Christ as well.
From there, they enrolled in college and then started their ministry in New York’s Washington Heights, a “tough place to be.” Their work has not gone unrewarded. In 27 years of ministry, Mahairas has seen what began as a ministry in a rented basement grow into a group of programs ministering to the homeless and drug addicts, a day school and six church communities.
And God did it using a former drug addict, Mahairas said, emphasizing God often likes to use people who no one would ever think would be fit for service.
But a Christian doesn’t have to experience problems like drug addiction to minister to people, Mahairas said.
“You don’t have to go into darkness to talk about the darkness,” he said. “You just have to shine the light.”
In ministering, Mahairas cautioned his audience that they should not make the mistake the Pharisees did of focusing on people’s sin and neglecting the message of grace. “You can’t go beating up people and telling people they’re sinners and go on,” he said.
The whole point of the gospel, he said, is to save not to condemn.
Christ did that when he went to Sychar and spoke with the sinful woman at the well, Mahairas said. Because of what Christ did, Mahairas added, the town heard the message of salvation.
Mahairas reminded the students God’s ways are higher than humans’ ways, and God thinks differently from people, looking past problems and seeing the good that he can use.
“Do not look at yourself and say, ‘God can’t use me,'” Mahairas said. “God’s got a plan for you.”

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  • Cory J. Hailey