As the teenagers disperse around the lake, the birds that were once grazing along the bank fly away and settle in the tall pines. The sun gleamers across the water and John Eads finally has a moment of peace and reflection. In his usual attire of jeans, a Light of the Village (LOV) polo, and brown New Balance sneakers, Eads takes a seat in a shaded area atop a hill, overlooking the lake while keeping a keen eye on the teens. “ Back before cell phones, television and the internet, families would gather outside and watch the sunset after dinner” said Eads. “ Even Jesus took a time out from the world and would go up into the mountains and have a time of reflection by himself. If you want to do something long term, you have to have a break from it.”
Eads and his wife, Dolores, along with staff members from LOV are at the annual youth retreat for teenagers who are a part of the ministry. The weekend is jam-packed with activities for the teens and the relaxing lake time is an hour away. The half hour reflection period following morning worship was a great opportunity to sit back, enjoy the cool breeze, and soak up the sun’s nutrients.
After being a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, earning a Master's of Business Administration from New Mexico State University, and earning a Master's in Healthcare Administration from Trinity University, Eads began working as a healthcare executive, serving 10 years as a hospital CEO. “ I thought it would be cool to work with gang members in prison. I know it sounds weird and Dolores thought I was crazy,” mentioned Eads.
In 1995, Eads became involved in prison ministry. He began by delivering Christmas presents to the kids of the guys in prison before gaining enough certification to actually go inside the prison. “ At the same time, Dolores and I volunteered our time at a place called “The Home” in San Antonio,” he said. “There, we learned a lot about inner-city ministry and how to exhort the Bible. Looking back, that was all preparation for us when we moved here to Mobile.” Eads relocated to Mobile because of his position with the hospital and his wife worked as a special education teacher. Eads states, “We hooked up with a prison fellowship group here and saw that there was a need in the youth correctional facilities so we started working with those. Then we decided that we should start something that was more regular.” Following a police ambush in Queens Court Apartments, Eads and his wife went and held a Christmas party at the apartment complex. Only after a few weeks of being there spreading the gospel, the apartments were closed due to renovations. “That’s when we found Alabama Village,” Eads said.
Eads and his wife Dolores founded LOV in 2001, transforming a crack house into a place of worship, refuge, and solidarity for Alabama Village. “We found this guy who was willing to sell us this house for $7,500 and he had a clean title, which is hard to find. He didn’t tell us it was a drug house when he sold it to us,” said Eads as he lets off a whimsical laugh. Eads and his wife would have bible study outside with local youth for three years until they got electricity and plumbing in the building. “ We had our first summer Bible camp two years before we had electricity,” Eads stated. “ By 2005, we had electricity, power, man we had the whole nine yards. And that’s when things really took off.”
Today, Light of the Village is thriving and has expanded its bible camps. LOV now has full-time staff who have devoted their time to the children of LOV. The ministry’s original campus in Alabama Village now has three buildings where they have an afterschool program, Wednesday night bible study for teenagers, and weekly Sunday morning worship services. In addition to having summer bible camps in the village, the ministry has summer bible camps at 5 locations: Chickasaw, Plateau, south Prichard, Juarez, Mexico, and their newest location in Mobile. Light of the Village is an incorporated 501(c)3 non-profit organization and are members of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. In fact, this fall he'll continue his part-time teaching venture at SHC when he leads the class Business, Society and Sustainability. Dolores has commited full-time to working at Light of the Village.
For more information about Light of the Village, visit the ministry's website at www.lightofthevillage.org or call 251-680-4613.