McCrabb: Homeless man charged with littering at church baptized there months later

Pastor asks Middletown judge to rescind $2,000 fine against Terry Scott.

Terry Scott drove around the Middletown area looking for a place to dump thousands of pounds of tile leftover from a home improvement project.

He was on Trenton-Franklin Road when he spotted a building with a large, unlit parking lot that looked to be the perfect place.

One problem: It was Berachah Church’s West Campus, 6830 Trenton-Franklin Road, and the surveillance cameras caught Scott’s illegal activity. He was charged with littering, a third-degree misdemeanor, and Middletown Municipal Court Judge James Sherron ordered him to pay $2,000 in restitution to the church and spend nine days in jail.

This is where the story could have ended, just one of the many court cases every week in Middletown.

But Scott, 32, who is homeless, has been staying with Serving the Homeless with Alternate Lodging Of Middletown (SHALOM), a church-based shelter that operates during the winter months. During one week, volunteers from Berachah were serving the homeless at Tytus Avenue Church of God, and as Scott went through the food line he met Jim Tinch Sr.

The same Jim Tinch Sr., pastor at the church where Scott committed the crime.

“You must be Terry,” Tinch Sr. said.

They struck up a conversation as pastors are known to do. Scott apologized for his actions.

He invited Scott to attend a church service at Berachah. One Sunday morning, when a Berachah van picked up those staying at SHALOM, Scott grabbed ride to the church location on Johns Road.

It changed his life.

“This has been the best two months,” Scott said.

He was baptized Sunday at Berachah by Pastor Jake Ferguson.

“A new chapter” is how Ferguson described the baptism that was witnessed by about 30 family members and friends of Scott’s. “It was very sobering, but a sweet moment.”

Three days later, Ferguson was there again for Scott.

Ferguson asked Judge Sherron to waive the $2,000 restitution Scott owed the church. The judge asked Scott why he missed his earlier appointment with the Probation Department. He had no answer. Sherron told Scott to reschedule or “go that way,” pointing toward the jail.

Scott will appear before Judge Sherron at 1:30 p.m. March 13.

Ferguson said Scott was remorseful for his actions. So asking the court to waive the fine was the “most logical and Biblical thing to do,” Ferguson said.

“Grace and mercy needs to be extended,” he said.

One of Berachah’s core values is doing the things nobody does, he said.

Scott certainly could use a break.

He’s divorced and his 3-month-old son died of SIDS on Dec. 28, 2012. Christmas is always one of the most emotional times for Scott. One night, as he sat alone in a room, he prayed for spiritual support.

He said it felt like someone grabbed three fingers on his right hand and whispered, “I’m OK Dad.”

Now, Scott said, he knows his son is alright.

He has full custody of his 12-year-old daughter who lives with her grandfather and attends school in Middletown. Scott doesn’t want her living on the street with him.

He has landed a part-time job at Creative Signs in downtown Middletown, and now that SHALOM’s 2023-24 season has ended, he’s applying for affordable housing.

Ferguson said Scott — everyone for that matter — shouldn’t by judged by a singular sin.

“You are not your past,” Ferguson said after court. “One mistake doesn’t determine his future. He’s part of the church family.”

Ferguson was asked where he’d like Scott’s life to be in five years.

“We can give him the keys to our building,” he said.

From church litterer to man who can unlock those doors.

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