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Carmen Ministries

Carlos and Tony Wood, December 2013, when Tony presented Carlos with a laptop to use for his higher education studies 

My name is Carlos Leon, born in Peru and raised in Puerto Rico. I was 14 when everything with me started - a bad attitude that grew little by little. 

By 15, I was smoking weed, drinking, not following rules - [disrespecting] authority. A lot of people, especially my family, didn't want anything to do with me because of my attitude and negative behavior.

By the time I turned 17, I was a full-time drug dealer - not of dimes and nickels but grams, kilos and tri-state distribution. My love for the streets, leadership and the desire for power was my addiction. I didn't care about anything, anyone or the consequences. My heart was becoming colder as time passed. 

In 2005 I was driving around, high on cocaine and weed. I got stopped by the police; they found cocaine and other drug paraphernalia; I was arrested. That was the end - but truly the beginning.

I went to my new house down State. In State on Thursday nights, I met a great, dedicated man named Tony Wood from Carmen Ministries. I was intrigued with the ministry: inspirational movie nights, good Christian studies and, most of all, unconditional love from this man of Christ.

I have been out of trouble since 2010, but I kept in communication with Tony. He is still my DAD and mentor. I went back to school and got a Bachelor's Degree in Biblical Studies with a concentration in Youth Ministry to develop my knowledge to better serve the Kingdom of God. A year ago I got married to a precious woman of God who is my support and rock. 

My testimony here is brief, but God has done a 360 on me.
"I'm not the man I want to be, but I'm the one that God wants me to be." And he continues to form me daily. 


Suicide was one of the worst things I could've thought about doing. Suicide isn't only the coward's way out, but if I had killed myself, I would have never known the purpose of my creation. I would have done more damage to those around me who love me and care for me. Suicide is never the answer.

To all who may read this, I don't know you personally.
I don't know your pain, but I love you. I'd die for you. 

Take it from me, God loves you, too.
Never give up; never surrender.You are a soldier.

Find your purpose in life − Live it daily.
It's never too late to find your purpose and live it. 

There's a time for everything under the sun except...

Purpose and wisdom. Neither of these have an "age" or a limit.
- S.O.L.S.T.I.C.E.


I write to say 'Thank You.' As a teacher, I always try to inspire my students so they can grow up one day and become good citizens. I feel like you have done that for [my husband]. You inspire him to do and be better. He has so many ideas planned for when he comes home, and I can't wait to help him accomplish it together with our daughter. Thank you again! 

Tony Wood, Dad to Carmen Ministries' young men
"Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with them."
Psalm 126:6
Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.
Luke 10:19 


"The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own. You do not blame them on your mother, the ecology, or the president. You realize that you control your own destiny."
Albert Ellis

Artist Charles Stonewall encourages us to find our authentic voice and to use our gifts for the greater good. 

Artist Charles Stonewall 
In January 2017 residents from the Voorhees Residential Group Homes attended a presentation at Lafayette Art Galleries in Easton, PA by photographer Charles Stonewall, a lifelong friend of Tony Wood. Described as a "keen observer of the human drama," Charles has been credited with encouraging us "to look closely and feel deeply."

Charles began taking pictures as a youth "with the idea of wanting to overcome my shyness and to initiate for perhaps the first time my authentic voice." It was the camera, a gift from his grandmother, that was the tool that allowed his voice to invest in the power of possibilities. 
I was adopted when I was 2, taken from my mother because I was not healthy and my mother was only 17. "They" thought I needed a better home. 

Today I am 21. I constantly think about how it feels to be adopted. I have been confused, lost and, at times, hated. But the truth is I was given another chance. My life is in the hands of God and He gave me another go at life. 

I know some people who are adopted think, "We don't have to listen to our parents. They are not are real parents." But truly they are. They adopted us when no one else would. They gave us love and hope to be someone we would never have had the chance to be.

My experiences helped me realize being adopted isn't so bad. I have two families that love me.

Drawing by One of Carmen Ministries' Young men


God forgive me for my sins and believe in me; God take the demons out of me and help me stay positive, give me strength to go home and stay out of jail; God keep me, my daughter and her mom together as a family.
For my friends: God, Show them a better (way) around certain things; bless them and keep them safe from our enemies; for my father, who sacrifices many great things for me, keep him safe and continue blessing him; for my mother: keep her safe and well. And for my family.
I pray for forgiveness; thank you for everything You did for me; watch over my family.
I pray my family has a better life; that I get a date for parole; that I stay out of trouble and do the right thing.


With closed eyes, I could vividly see myself preaching in my grandfather's old church. This was so powerful to me because in the midst of me praying and meditating, asking God what He wants from me, this is what He showed me so very clearly. 

I feel like God brought me to this point to see His plan. I want to be in tune with God's will and I want to fulfill my calling. 

I know God is calling me to ministry and seminary is not easy but I'm willing and ready, now that I believe God is calling me, to start my own church. I still fear the unknown, but I'm going to continue to trust God and His plan because I know He is going to work everything out. 

"How would your life be different if ... you stopped allowing other people to dilute or poison your day with their words or opinions? Let today be the day ... you stand strong in the truth of your beauty and journey through your day without attachment to the validation of others."
Steve Maraboli

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Thank you!

Please Note:

Names of the incarcerated have been omitted or changed to provide anonymity. Content may have been edited and condensed with the intent of preserving the author's original message.