John Alarid (CBC ’13, AGTS ’13), Lead Pastor of Freedom City Church, has always been passionate about working with the marginalized society. His passion stems from his own ten-year battle with a heroin addiction, criminal lifestyle, homelessness, and incarceration. As God set him free from addiction and restored his mind, Alarid went on to finish high-level degrees, start businesses and nonprofits, and became an agent of change within the community.
Following his time at the state penitentiary, Alarid gained many years of experience facilitating drug recovery and prisoner re-entry homes in Los Angeles, CA, Phoenix, AZ, and in Manila, Philippines. Now, with churches in Springfield and Branson, a recovery home and sober living residences, and a prison campus within the Ozark Correctional Center, Alarid has been able to expand his outreach to those in need in Greene, Webster, and Taney counties.
Freedom City’s mission is to evangelize the hope of Jesus Christ through residential recovery homes, outreaches, sermons, worship gatherings, and life-giving churches in urban centers around the world.
“We have seen over 1,000 people saved every year since 2016 in our campuses and through the prison ministry and Festival of Hope park outreaches,” Alarid said.
Alarid’s mission and vision for reaching the marginalized doesn’t stop with church services. Freedom City has begun several residential recovery programs, including Hope Homes of the Ozarks and Straight Street Inc, which helps those struggling with substance abuse through housing, work force development, education, and community engagement.
The Hope Homes program allows people to minister to struggling addicts and offers a community-based, God-centered environment where participants engage in classes, group counseling, one-on-one mentoring, and work therapy while finding freedom from addiction and achieving the skills they need to become productive members of society.
“Hope Homes has grown so much that it is a separate nonprofit with its own board and is under the Springfield Adult and Teen Challenge Center. We have a men’s facility but are looking to open a women’s home in the next three years,” Alarid said.
Those within the programs are taught the 5 C’s: controlled environment, community, Christ encounter, character development, and cause. These fundamentals serve as a reminder to those on a path to salvation of what their purpose is and how to get to where they’re called to be. The program is one year, with a 400% higher success rate than other similar, secular programs. 99% of their program graduates have not returned to prison, with an 85% success rate of graduates not returning to substance abuse. Freedom City is currently trying to raise money for a women’s Hope Home facility, which would meet a great need in the community.
Education, recovery, community, job training, and housing are key stabilizing factors in successful prisoner re-entry and recovery from substance abuse disorder.
“Education is transformational. It was for me and it is for others. It is proven to reduce recidivism rates, which are currently sitting at a rate of 79% nationally. That means almost 8 out of 10 people who are released from prison today will be back in prison on new charges within three to five years,” Alarid said.
“This is so much more than a church plant. The church should be the answer to poverty, addiction, mass incarceration, and racism. Compassion ministry is at the heart of what we do. I believe that serving the poor and marginalized is at the heart of Jesus’ life and mission. Jesus welcomed those that society rejected and we want to do the same.”
To read more about Alarid’s testimony, click here.
To learn more about Freedom City Church, click here.