Meridian Star

Columns

May 9, 2014

Quiet Corner: A mother’s prayers

MERIDIAN — On the way to lunch, crossing the bridge into the south side of town, I can smell the pecan wood smoke. The aroma leads to the small cinder-block building with the happy pig painted on the outside wall and words that say: “You don’t need no teeth to eat Shack’s meat!”  Ronnie Shack’s successful restaurant and catering business are a result of a mother’s persistent prayers for her once prodigal son.

     Ronnie’s love of cooking and eating good food began when he was a small child watching his mother fry chicken, cook up collard greens, and bake cornbread. The kitchen smelled so good, and Mamma would let her young son stir the cornbread or turn the chicken. Daddy had gone away, so Mamma took his place, nurturing her four children, teaching them about Jesus, taking them to church and praying for them every day.

     But when Ronnie grew older, he drifted away from his mother’s kitchen and stopped attending church. A new girlfriend offered him cocaine. “Just try it,” she said. He did try it, just as he had tried drinking, all because “everybody” was doing it and he wanted to fit in and have fun. Fitting in and having fun led to addiction. Ronnie says: “I loved cocaine, but more than that, I loved the money from selling—I became addicted to making money.”

       While Ronnie bought and sold drugs, survived six gunshot wounds, and served three prison sentences, his mother and grandmother never stopped praying. Ronnie is sure those prayers saved his life and eventually brought him to repentance. “I always felt like Mama went with me into that cell every time I was locked up,” says Ronnie, “and I knew she didn’t deserve to serve time. Finally I realized street life was killing me. I couldn’t sustain the pace; I came to a place where I really wanted to get caught. It was a relief when I went to jail that last time.”

     The last time he sat in a jail cell he began to read his Bible and talk to God. Ronnie slowly returned to his childhood faith, repenting of his sins and receiving God’s forgiveness. With his renewed relationship with the Lord, he began to encourage other inmates in the faith.

     The prodigal returned and he and his mother became a cooking team again; Ronnie makes the barbecue, sweet potatoes, and cold slaw from old family recipes while Mom makes scrumptious Red Velvet cakes and other delectable desserts.

     Ronnie Shack’s employees are often people who have been incarcerated; he loves to provide jobs for those who need a new start in the “free world.”

     Ronnie is a deacon in his church, and often preaches very convincing sermons to large groups of young people. His message: “Prison is a terrible place, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world for you if you turn your will over to God. But don’t play around with drugs or alcohol. Don’t follow the crowd. God has a better plan for your life.”

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