Serving with Mennonite Disaster Service led to a personal experience of resurrection, symbolized by baptism on Good Friday, for Kory Jones.
At the time of his April 14 baptism, Jones was an MDS volunteer. He also was recovering from substance abuse, was unemployed and had lost his wife, home, truck and reputation because of his addictions.
He started attending Vinewood Community Church in Lodi, a Mennonite Brethren congregation about a hour from the MDS project camp in Calaveras County. There he learned of a need for MDS volunteers to rebuild houses after wildfires.
He spotted a bulletin announcement asking for volunteers to drive the church van to pick up workers at the train station and take them to the MDS camp in Calaveras.
Jones started as a weekly volunteer March 19 in Lake County, about two hours northwest of Lodi, where he lived. He served there two weeks.
Jones was amazed at the way he was accepted and trusted from the start. He loved the way serving with MDS made him feel valued and useful again.
“I had a nice house, a brand new truck, a great job — all that stuff — but I was most miserable when I had all that stuff,” he said. “When you work for disaster survivors you realize what the necessities are. It’s a different way of looking at things.”
Jones described his condition prior to volunteering with MDS as being stuck. He was spending his nights at the Salvation Army and attending Vinewood Church’s Celebrate Recovery program.
He had been looking for work for two years, but doors closed in his face. He had been in law enforcement and loved helping other people. This chance to help people as a volunteer seemed like a good opportunity.
After two weeks at Lake County, the project closed, and the project director asked Jones if he would transport the MDS truck to the Calaveras County site. Jones was impressed that after just two weeks of working together, they would entrust him with an MDS vehicle.
He didn’t have anything to go home to, so he asked if he could continue as a volunteer in Calaveras. After a week volunteering there, Jones went back to Lodi for the weekend to attend his Celebrate Recovery group and go to church.
After the worship service one of the members approached him and said he would soon need a project foreman for his landscaping company. He wanted Jones to come work for him.
Jones went back to Calaveras for a second week, thinking about the offer. It was a difficult decision. He found his MDS work fulfilling and healing but also felt God was providing for him through the fellow church member. He decided to take the job. He started April 17.
Although Jones was new in his Christian faith, he wanted to be baptized. An MDS project director pointed him to West Point Community Covenant Church and Pastor Haight.
From there a decision was made to baptize Jones on Good Friday. West Point Pastor Jeff Haight joined family and friends on the banks of the Mokelumne River. Emerging from the water, Jones fell into the arms of an aunt and cousin who he says “never lost faith in him.”
Jones described it as a personal resurrection.
“While I’ve been building MDS houses, I’ve been building my own house, building on the foundation of Christ, something that will be there forever,” he said.
His time with MDS did more for his rehabilitation than any 30-day rehab experience.
“People were trusting me to build them a new home,” he said. “People who were homeless made me not homeless. My recovery is so much stronger now.”
And so is his faith, thanks to the waters of the Mokelumne.