By Steve Rees, Special to the ASSIST News Service
LONGMONT, CO (ANS – Dec. 8, 2015) — From childhood Jane Northrup knew she was going to serve the Lord in a significant way. An evangelist who reached millions with the Gospel or a pastor who led a large congregation never dominated her thoughts, yet she knew in her spirit that there was something great and unknown in her future – God’s prophetic plan.
There were glimpses of God’s call on Northrup’s life throughout her young adult years in college and after graduation with a teaching degree. While working for an executive employment recruiter in 2005, Northrup heard the Lord say, “I want you to help young people find and keep jobs by teaching workshops.” It wasn’t the first time she’d heard the still, small voice of the Lord within, but this time his words were clear and precise.
So, in obedience to the Lord’s directive, Northrup developed a program for high school students at a private Christian school, where she enjoyed a measure of success teaching job-seeking skills. She penned a workbook for students attending the workshops but, over time, found herself less than fulfilled with the assignment and doubting God’s call to it, even with her success.
Still the Lord continued to lead Northrup on her journey to doing something big for him, and she realized his instructions were frequent and ponderous.
About the same time of her fatigue with teaching workshops, and to Northrup’s dismay, she heard the Lord say, “You left me out the workbook and, besides, I want you to go to Nineveh.”
“I’m like, are you kidding, God? That’s like going to jail, right? If this is really you, God, I’ll do it but you’ve got to open a door and, if you do, you’re going to have to push me through it,” Northrup recalls.
Remembering God’s specific instructions, Northrup revised her workbook, supporting its job-seeking content with corresponding Bible verses, while selling advertising for a monthly newspaper in Fort Collins, Colo.
Confident in her writing skills, Northrup asked the newspaper publisher if she could write a column about job-seeking tips for readers.
“The day the column was published a woman whose son served time for aggravated robbery called and asked me if I could help him find a job,” says Northrup, who knew of an opening at a local car wash and detail shop.
“Sitting on his front porch, I told him there were two conditions to my offer of assistance: First he would have to thank his creator for the job and, secondly, if the owner of the car wash saw the color of his boxers, it was over,” Northrup says, laughing.
The young man’s probation officer was so impressed with Northrup’s success in finding employment for the department’s “most difficult offender” that a group of 10 officers asked her to assist the offender’s accomplice and others land jobs after serving time.
Today, 10 years after her call to “Nineveh,” Northrup is seeing God’s prophetic plan unfold before her spiritual and physical eyes, and remembering the good and bad times she’s walked through.
Along the way, she’s experienced supernatural visions, received a word of knowledge that she is in fact a pastor, and listened to a Spirit-filled, Bible school student tell her, “There’s nothing you can do to escape from God’s call on your life.”
There have been times in the valley, too. Northrup describes it as spiritual “boot camp” that has, at times, produced tears of repentance, emotional and physical exasperation, financial brokenness, and times of doubt about her ability to discern the Holy Spirit’s leading.
It’s a destination Northrup never imagined as a young girl eager to serve the God she loves.
Providentially on Dec 1, Northrup opened Authority Staffing in Colorado, the first of its kind for-profit employment agency in the nation, specifically created to provide job opportunities for convicted felons. She started with three eager employees.
Since then, Authority Staffing added four more employees to the main branch’s payroll and Northrup is looking to hire two more managers for outlying offices where, she believes, there is both need and opportunity. Her managers, like regular employees, must be convicted felons as a condition of their employment because of Authority Staffing’s mandate from God.
Incredulous to prison ministry workers who say recidivism among and opposition to convicted felons are usually impossible hurdles for former inmates to overcome, Northrup placed three of her employees – all former inmates – with a major company on Authority Staffing’s opening day.
“I’m on fire for the Lord as never before,” says Northrup. “He is so amazing. I’m humbled that after so many years of seeking – and sometimes failing in my pursuit of – the Lord that he’s brought me to this place of making a real difference in the lives of felons.”
Northrup’s first big client, a yoghurt production and distribution center in Colorado, was not only impressed with Authority Staffing’s employees; the human resources manager says he appreciates Northrup’s outspoken Christian beliefs and her high standards. Her business card bears the image of men erecting a cross – based on Matthew 28:18 – and the words of Isaiah 61, referring to captives and prisoners.
“I’m not going to give my clients horrible employees. I want to give them the best,” says Northrup, a forty-something single mother of two who, in addition to her biological children, is spiritually “mothering” two employees. Homeless and without transportation, the two are worth the extra effort, Northrup says, because they have potential to be her best workers – if not leaders at the company.
The third employee is a man in his 40s who turned his life fully over to the Lord Jesus Christ during his incarceration and, as a free man, is demonstrating growth and maturity in leading Northrup’s younger employees during the work day.
Northrup prays with her employees, coaches their success, prepares lunch boxes with Bible verses inside and constantly reminds them that they have delegated authority from the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18) to resist their former ways of life, and instead heed God’s spiritual and workplace authorities.
“I am literally God’s vessel,” Northrup says. “It’s unbelievable the little glimpses he gives me of what Authority Staffing is going to become.”
In 2012, when Northrup was still acquiring prophetic insights about her business plan through visions, prophetic words and Bible verses that seemed to jump off of the pages, one vision loomed over all other spiritual experiences.
“I saw in the vision that this concept of hiring hard-working, Bible-believing felons as temporary employees for outsourcing to bigger companies is going to be recognized by state (Colorado) officials.
“From here, it’s going to spread like wildfire to every state in the nation and it’s going to change people’s lives,” Northrup says, hinting at a puzzle piece she still doesn’t understand. “It’s going to be like the ‘underground railroad.’“
At least one former prison ministry worker believes Northrup’s grand vision is from God, and he prays for its success.
“I think she’s onto something big with her business model, vetting employees with felony convictions as stringently as she does, and by providing a Christian influence for people who want to turn their lives around through hard work,” says Ron Mallett, who has written extensively on the topic of cooperation between faith-based ministries and government for The Denver Post.
“The most fundamental cause of jail and prison growth can be traced back to that $100 word: recidivism,” says Mallett, a former prison minister.
“We’re told by authorities that the ‘real’ recidivism rate might be as high as 85 percent, in contrast to the official 67 percent because formal studies are based primarily on surveys of people who are on parole – or times of best behavior,” says Mallett.
Joblessness, homelessness and lack of transportation all contribute to recidivism among inmates as well.
Until transportation and housing components are resolved for Northrup’s first batch of employees, she’s willing to step up to the plate providing both.
“My employees are hitting it out of the park for me every day, so I’m willing to return the favor” says Northrup, adding others in prison ministry are helping her explore other pieces of the transition from jail to society.
For all Northrup’s efforts, Authority Staffing’s employees are grateful. They’re also hopeful that at some point they’ll transition from temporary employees of Authority Staffing to full-time workers with a slate of benefits, including advancement opportunities. Northrup says that too is her goal.
“What Authority Staffing and Jane have done for me is amazing, offering me both a hand up and a renewed hope for my future without drugs and alcohol, as well as a great job” says Anthony Padilla, 44, who is still living in a half-way house while working to pay off fines before he can retrieve his car.
“I was at the point where I believed the rest of my life would include a bottle in my hand and no prospects but hard work, until I received the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in prison. With Jane’s (Northrup) support, I did the impossible as a felon in landing a well-paying job that I really like,” Padilla says.
Twenty-one-year-old Gabriel McIntyre and his best friend Sarriah Brandsma, 22, say they are doing better than ever before, employed and close to finding permanent housing after five years on the streets and in jail. In the interim, living in Northrup’s small home isn’t so bad because she treats them like they are her own, Brandsma says.
“I’m doing fantastic,” says McIntyre. “My work is hard but fun and my faith in God is rising since I got saved in jail in August. I’m aware of how much God’s s helped me through Jane (Northrup) and Authority Staffing, and it seems that my life is only getting better,” he says.
Brandsma agrees. “It’s crazy how things are getting better so quickly,” she says. “One day we’re living on the streets without my daughter, and now we’ve got good-paying jobs with the hope of an apartment when we get our first paychecks.
“God is amazing and Jane (Northrup) is awesome for her assistance in helping us both get our eyes back on Jesus,” says Brandsma, who grew up in a Christian home but became a prodigal.
The three are fulfillment of a vision Northrup had in 2011, four years before she completed her business plan for Authority Staffing. Each employee – Brandsma, Padilla and McIntyre – was handpicked by Northrup by the time she opened on Dec. 1.
“I saw a landscape, a field if you will. It had no mountains, trees, flowers, grass or anything like that. Rather, it was filled like a sardine can with angry men. Their arms were up in the air and at their feet were little boys curled up in fetal positions.
“As I looked at the scene, I heard the Lord say, ‘Go get them for me.’“
Northrup now knows that God’s redemption of people includes angry, broken felons who he intends to transform into mighty warriors for Christ and, in her words, the best workers in the world.
Photo captions: 1) Jane Northrup. 2) This say it all about this work. 3) Logo. 4) Steve Rees.
About the writer: Steve Rees is freelance Christian journalist who loves the church and writes about how it engages the culture and works toward fulfilling the Great Commission. He lives in Longmont, Colo. and attends Resurrection Fellowship, a nondenominational, missions-driven church that honors all the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the five-fold ministry offices. The church is in Loveland, Colo. Rees formerly worked as a newspaper reporter and was among the first journalists who wrote about Promise Keepers before it spread nationwide from Boulder, Colo. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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