Former inmate ministers through testimony
‘God eventually catches you’ when you run from Him, Kissimmee woman remembers
Published April 29, 2004
KISSIMMEE (FBW)-Tina Mahood’s list of “formers”-former alcoholic, drug addict, prostitute, bar brawler, homosexual, and inmate-is formidable. But her designation of the last ten years describes her best-“a new creation.” Today Mahood ministers to other women trying to overcome the consequences of similar life choices.
“My past became my ministry,” Mahood said, in sharing her testimony with First Baptist Church, Kissimmee, where she is a member. Her study, “Created to become like Christ,” was part of the congregation’s 2003 40 Days of Purpose emphasis.
Of Italian heritage, Mahood grew up in a “good family” in Winchester, Mass., a suburb of Boston, but was sexually abused by a relative when a very young girl. Mahood told Florida Baptist Witness she began drinking at age 11 and added drugs to the mix at 15. Her parents admitted her to a mental institution for stays which last for several months at a time. Her first arrest came at 16, when Boston police put her in protective custody overnight for being drunk and disorderly. After several similar arrests the 18-year-old was sent to detox.
“I was always pulling some shenanigans,” she said in her distinctive Boston accent. “It was a crazy, crazy, crazy life.”
Mahood married a man, John McMahon, “who drank like me” and the couple moved to central Florida. Her husband “got sober” and made a profession of faith, but Mahood continued her drunken life style. Through tears, Mahood told of her husband who stayed with her even after he became a Christian.
“He stayed with me for a while to try to help me get sober, but I didn’t believe in God and I didn’t feel any hope in my life,” she said.
Her husband eventually moved out, but continued to pay her bills and buy her groceries, in exchange for her to attend church with him on Sunday mornings. The couple attended a Baptist church in St. Cloud. After five years of this arrangement, McMahon told his wayward wife he would no longer enable her self-destructive lifestyle, and his financial support ended. Mahood’s life quickened its downward spiral.
March 21, 1994-the date of her 25th arrest in Osceola
County-was what Mahood calls, a “great day in my life.”
While in the Osceola County Jail, Mahood said she was “knocked
to her knees.” It was while she was there she made a
profession of faith and took the first steps of a walk she now
calls a “magnificent journey.”
She began to study the Bible, attend church and frequent 12-step meetings.
“All of this was a process and it did not happen overnight,” said Mahood. “I knew I loved Jesus and wanted to be closer to Him.”
Mahood’s 85-year-old father in Boston also never gave up hope that his daughter, whom he calls “Joy,” would turn to the Lord. They now speak and pray the Lord’s Prayer together each evening.
Ten years ago, when the legal system finally had no claim on her life, she left prison-only to return within a year to begin a 12-step program for those addicted to alcohol and drugs. Before John McMahon died of cancer in 1998, they went into jails together “to pass on hope to others.”
As a member of First Baptist Church, Kissimmee, she is about her Heavenly Father’s business, ministering to women on the same path she once walked.
Mahood teaches LifeWay’s “Conquering Chemical Dependency: First Step to Christ-Centered 12 Step Process” every Wednesday at the Osceola County Jail, and also leads a similar class at her church on Thursdays.
Mahood’s husband of eight months, Paul, also leads support groups and is a Habitat for Humanity volunteer. The Disney engineer, who has been “clean and sober eight years,” possesses the gift of leadership and development, said his wife.
FBC Kissimmee pastor Tim Wilder described the couple as “faithful in ministry.” The church’s Osceola Christian Ministry Center, where the Mahoods lead support groups, also feeds 70-100 needy persons daily, and provides showers, a clothes closet and a pregnancy center.
“You name it and Tina’s been through it,” Wilder told the Witness. “That is why she is devoted to this ministry. Her heart is a restoration house for ladies.”
Her enthusiasm for the women’s restoration project bubbles into even the briefest conversation. Mahood is hoping to emulate the work of Restoration House in Orange County and is working with its director, Lynn Latham, who is opening a similar facility in Osceola County.
Recounting the difficulties she experienced after finally getting out of prison, Mahood told of needing-but not finding-a job. She also needed godly friends. Mahood foresees a network of a hundred mentors who will supply some of the needs of ladies re-entering the world after prison.
“So many of these women accept Christ in jail, then they come out and need things that are so easy for someone to provide-a ten minute conversation, encouragement, a ride to church. Anybody can do that,” she said.
Mayhood is seeing fruits of her ministry in women whose lives are changed and who now help others through the ministries of First, Kissimmee. “As pastor Tim Wilder teaches, we bring them in, build them up, teach them, and send them out,” she said. “Then we start the cycle over again. To God be all the glory!”
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