“If you build it, he will come,” stated character Shoeless Joe Jackson in the movie “Field Of Dreams”. Sallie Swanigan of Columbus, Mississippi received the same message; however, it didn’t come from a baseball player but rather, God.
Raised attending church with Christian morals and values, Swanigan knew the Lord but didn’t always live her life for him. It wasn’t until she was well into adulthood and a mother of two adult children, that she moved to Georgia and discovered her true ministry. “God put me to go back on the streets,” Swanigan relays, explaining how she became a street preacher. “I was a new creature…it’s about being saved.” While ministering on the streets, Swanigan kept hearing God tell her to “build this house” and re-connect with relationships that had gone sour. This house wouldn’t just be any house. It would be a Christian-based halfway house for women coming out of prison. Here they would learn the fundamentals of Christianity while studying the basic tools of cooking and cleaning and education as a means of creating and maintaining a productive life. Swanigan tried to ignore this new calling but in 2008 she could resist no more. Moving herself back to Columbus, Mississippi, she mended broken relationships and started a new chapter of her life.
Opening a halfway house might have been easier for Swanigan if she owned a big house but she didn’t nor did she have the funds to buy and operate a facility of this type. So, with little money, Swanigan reached out to her community for help by going on the radio and local television news programs, appearing in the paper, anything to help spread the word about her intended project, “All The Way with Jesus”.
Praying for the best but expecting the worst, she was flabbergasted when attorney David Owens donated an un-occupied house of his to be used as the halfway house. If that didn’t seem a direct gift from God, the following would ensure it. Swanigan was graciously given the opportunity to set up “All The Way with Jesus” as a 501 (c)(3) Nonprofit Organization without any cost. Furthermore, the community continued to provide continuous support. Instead of objecting to ex-cons living next door to them, neighbors and organizations came in and “did all the cleaning and stripping of the floors” in the three-bedroom, two-bath house. The only thing Swanigan could do was call out “God this is really you.”
Yes, Swanigan has jumped enormous obstacles yet plenty still remain. Money is needed to pay for food, cleaning supplies and basics and the house still has repairs that must be done before it can board tenants. With the continuation of help from the community, “All The Way with Jesus” will eventually be set up and running. When? That question is unknown. What is evident is Swanigan’s desire and persistence for “All The Way with Jesus”. The woman has raised two children, preached to prostitutes on the streets and drunks in the bar and is ready to finish building this house before moving on to the next nine houses she plans to set up within her lifetime. Sally Swanigan is not your average retired woman and we thank her for that.
Featured in By U Magazine’s Summer 2010 issue as Amanda Williford