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Carmen Ministries

Tony met Taeron at a Carmen Ministries' event three years ago. Their journey together started when Taeron asked Tony to be his spiritual father. Taeron (right) is pictured with Tony at his church in Laurel, Maryland, where he currently serves as pastor.   
When you see me, what do you see? A pastor; a father; a pillar of society? Maybe a student. Hopefully you see a man of God, but I certainly didn't start out that way.

Born premature, weighing 3 pounds, addicted to crack cocaine, and having an undeveloped brain and kidney, the doctor thought I wouldn't make it. If I did make it, I would be a special needs child unable to live without help. That's what the doctor said . . . But God didn't agree; God had other plans.

Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, the 1600th block of Riggs Avenue, West Side, it was not the best place to grow up. At one, I was taken from my mother by the State for child neglect. Apparently she wanted to go out and taking care of me just wasn't her plan, so she left me for drugs and Lord knows what else. 

After being in foster care for almost a year, my grandparents took me to raise as their own. But we were poor and being the youngest in a house of seven, living with my aunts and uncles as my brothers and sisters, I quickly learned the importance of a meal. 

At around 12, I was diagnosed with kidney failure, and my whole life stopped. I didn't quite understand. How could this be happening to me? I defied all the odds when the doctor said I would die and God chose for me to live. So why, after dealing with learning disabilities and school, worrying about kids teasing me, getting in constant fights - after all I'd been through, how is it that God chose me to have this disease? Yet it all was a part of God's plan. 

Being special ed for most of my academic career, people thought I was dumb so they were amazed to find I got accepted into a very small college in West Virginia. People always looked at me as the good kid, the one who didn't do any wrong. The truth was I was the sick kid, the one who wanted to do wrong but couldn't because I was just too sick. 

In my senior year of high school, I was blessed to receive a kidney transplant. When that happened, I told myself it was time to have some fun. As I went off to college, I did every drug you can think of; I never went to class; I lived every day as it came, doing my own thing. I found myself broke, a college dropout, and a drug addict just like my mother. At that time, I was at my lowest: a drug charge, no education, and no direction. 
Then I found myself going to church! The sad thing is I never went to church for God. I went to church so people would stop talking about me; I went to church for name recognition; I went to church to get that "good kid" persona back. Even when we have our own reasons, motives and plans for our life, God shows us His. 

As years went on and I got deeper into church, I was able to check my drug addiction. I also earned my Associate's degree and worked in the medical field. Soon after that, I truly found God's calling. You see, I spent so much time going to church for the wrong reasons, I started going for the right reasons.

I realized it wasn't about me; it was about God. I realized everything I had been through to that point got me to this level in my life. You could say, "Man, you had a tough life being sick all the time," but had I not been sick, I believe I would be in the streets today. I am blessed.

The oldest of 9 brothers and sisters, I am the only one without a record; my drug charge was expunged. I am the only one with a college degree, and I am one of four with a high school diploma. I have a good job, I'm not on Section 8, and I go to church. 

Had I stayed with my mother, I would probably be dead now. My mother didn't care for me and maybe she did love me but, at that point in her life, she loved drugs more. I would not have received the medical care as I did with my grandparents nor would I have gone to the same caliber of schools and gotten the educational help to learn how to read. And scripture says, "All things work for the good of those who love God according to his purpose. " When we find God's purpose for our lives, that is when we can truly live our lives and not just for us but for God. 

If you are wondering about my father, he was never in my life. I was 13 before I even knew who he was. I lived across the street from him my whole life, yet the first time we spoke was when I was 19. When people sing my praises, my father tries to take credit, but I'm quick to say, "It wasn't him; it was God." As we go through life, we and others try to take credit for God's work. I can truly say I would be nothing if it wasn't for the love and grace of God. 

I am now a pastor of my own congregation. I have a fiancée, and am helping to raise three beautiful young ladies. I am blessed with a great life. I know it is all because of the grace and mercy of God. 

If I had to leave you with a final thought, I leave you this: No matter what happens in your life, know there's a purpose to it. Sometimes we take L's in life, but those L's aren't losses ˗ they're lessons. So when we learn from those lessons, we can be what God intends us to be. I know because had it not been for the lessons I've learned in life, I would not be where I am today. And I thank God and pray that He continues to form me daily. 

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." 

Romans 8:28

Tony Wood, affectionately known as "Dad" or "Pops" by Carmen Ministries' young men.
"If only I can find the perfect words to describe your love, it wouldn't be enough! All I 
know is that 11 years ago, I met this man who I call many names but still
 can't seem to find the right  one,   because he is ALL. He loved me evenbefore we spoke. He took me for who I was and never stopped loving me. I couldn't ask for anything else, because I have you. Love you Pops." 

Quartius Byrd, a mentee of Tony's & 2017 recipient of Carmen Ministries' Cousin Ellis Scholarship, is now pursuing his secondary education.

"Hey  Dad, God is really working in me and His spirit is ministering  something new to my heart each day. God's transformation in my life is too much for me to fathom. Every day is a battle of my spirit against my flesh. . . So, I ask that you pray for me in the battle that I wage. . . Pray that I become a disciplined man of God. . . And thank you for interceding for me all these years." [Tony's mentee for 25 years.]

"He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep water."

2 Samuel 22:17


God pray for me and my family and also guide others to make the right choices so they can get home, too.

I pray to hold my composure and for the strength to do what I got to do' I pray to keep my family safe.

I pray to get out of here fast and to keep me safe when I go home; I pray for my family.

Lord, I pray that I will have a good future and not make the same mistakes as I made in the past.

I pray for me and my grandmother's health.

I pray that the Lord forgives me for my sins and that He watches over my friends and loved ones, keeping us out of trouble and doing the right thing.

I pray that when I go to parole next month that I get the date to go home. I also pray that my family is good spiritually and emotionally. I pray that I continue to have confidence and endurance to complete my time and I ask that my family continues to stay strong with me emotionally. Amen.

Experiencing God Within - Discover Where You Stand With the True and Living God! by Mark J. Rich

Have you ever wondered why you experience less of God's presence than others do or if you're truly born again - a temple of the living God" Then this book is for you. Take a rich, spiritual journey, discovering the inner spiritual realities that all true believers are entitled to. And for anyone who lacks these priceless realities, a crystal clear path is laid out to experience them.

This book could very well change your life! If searching Amazon, enter "Experiencing God Within, Mark Rich." Enjoy! - Tony


"How would your life be different if . . . You stopped allowing other people to dilute or poison your day with their words or opinions? Let today be the day . . . you stand strong in the truth of your beauty and journey through your day without attachment to the validation of others."
Author Unknown


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Please Note:

Names of the incarcerated have been omitted or changed to provide anonymity. Content may have been edited and condensed with the intent of preserving the author's original message.