MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The laughter is sweet for Todd Sasser these days, a far cry from the dark corner of a Covington County jail cell a little more than 9 years ago when he faced drug charges.
Physically and spiritually, Sasser felt caged in, and then it happened. "I began to pray. I said 'God if you're real, I need help.' "
Help came in the form of an early release, out of jail in 11 days and into rehab. Two years later an idea was born. "Something broke inside of me. I wanted to do something," Sasser explained.
Today, Sasser runs Crossover Ministry and it means just what it says, cross over from a life of bad choices and despair to one of hope. It's free of charge to anyone who needs help. The ministry relies on private donations to survive.
"The practical part of it is getting them out of the situation they're in now. We show them the love of God and His word is still able to transform lives," said Sasser.
Sasser says life at the ministry is not easy. It's an 8-month program and it takes commitment. Some drop out, others hang in there. "They do most of the work," said Sasser.
A seven mile drive brings us to a produce farm owned and operated by Crossover Ministry. It's in the field where clients get their hands dirty, yet find the much-needed cleansing for the soul. There they pick peas, tomatoes and okra over a spread of 8 acres.
"It builds self confidence," Sasser said of the farm.
Much like the plants on the farm, Crossover Ministry plants the seed of new life, a new beginning. More than 150 people have graduated since the ministry started 5 years ago. Sasser estimates 700 people have applied for admission, but sometimes he has to turn a few away because he doesn't have enough room.
Geoffrey Ketcham manages the farm for the ministry. Ketcham sees first hand the positive changes taking root in the furnace of summer. "It's hot. They're out here sweating out the toxins and developing good work ethic," said Ketcham.
"You plant a dead seed in the ground and looks like nothing," Sasser said. "Three months later you're picking peas off a beautiful plant. In essence it's what their life can be."
By his own admission he's come a long, long way since the day he was arrested, and is quick to give God the credit for making a difference in the lives of others.
For now it's back to work at the ministry building in Opp which, by the way, used to be a funeral home.
Once a home for the dead, now a home for those living on second chances.