When Tobias Rainey joined LifeWorks by Jobs Partnership, he came with the hope of finding employment. Little did he realize how his encounter with some faithful volunteers would begin the process of healing in his life and he would build lifelong friendships that would strengthen him in times of trouble. This would build him up to persevere and find purpose beyond himself.
As a child, Tobias had experienced neglect, sometimes going hungry for days when his mother would leave and not return. Having lived through abuse and molestation, he blamed himself for the offenses that had been committed against him. With no structure and discipline in his life, only two months after he turned 18, Tobias had his first infraction of the law. He was sentenced to eight and a half years in prison and ten years’ probation upon his release. It was in prison that he was introduced to Christ, when Pastor Gladys Butler from True Vine Ministry ministered to him. She provided him with extraordinary support when he was released after seven years and eight months, even offering a place to stay. She introduced him to Pastor Sherman Adams, who pointed Tobias to Jobs Partnership as a means to become equipped for employment.
The Jobs Partnership LifeWorks program became much more to Rainey than he expected. He speaks effusively about the volunteers who showed him exceptional kindness. Mabel Rose’s sincerity left a lasting impression, motivating Tobias to begin to open up about his past. He had suppressed his pain for far too long. His job coaches, Ron Moshak and Drew Bonfiglo, listened and provided wise guidance while sharing God’s Word. He attributes Ron’s counsel to helping him walk out of shame and learning to live the new life that he had been given in Christ. Tobias also struck up a special friendship with another volunteer, Carol Foote.
While he attended LifeWorks, Tobias was living within the strict limits of probation, but he was pleased to be provided with the opportunity to work as an Alley Coordinator at Red Lobster, a Jobs Partnership corporate partner. Based on a technical violation of the terms of his probation however, he soon found himself back behind bars, not once, but twice. Frustrated with the tight restrictions, he chose to spend another two years in prison in lieu of the lengthy probationary period. During this time of adversity, his LifeWorks friend, Carol Foote was a bright light of hope, relentlessly encouraging him. She sent him books and messages which lifted his spirit and inspired him to grow. He saw love in action through his life-giving relationship with Carol and her husband, David Foote. He now counts this couple as surrogate parents of sorts, stating that the love of Christ is definitely in their midst.
With his troubled past behind him, Rainey’s final release from prison was met with several setbacks. Each time he would start a new job, he would bring his best attitude to the job and excel, but because of his record, his employers were often forced to release him due to insurance restrictions. A stint as foreman of a landscaping company ended in this way after 14 months. This led Tobias on a journey to Mississippi, where he met his father and brothers and for the first time, staying to pursue building a relationship with them. While there, his encounters with the Unemployment Office led to an opportunity for him to receive training as a truck driver. While pursuing his course of study, First Presbyterian Church of Orlando, a longtime Jobs Partnership community partner, provided food and gas to cover the five weeks that it would take for Tobias to graduate. His background returned to haunt him again however, when the trucking company he found employment with afterwards had to let him go for insurance purposes.
In answer to the question about what kept him going, Tobias quickly drew on Pastor Sylvester Robinson’s LifeWorks graduation message that, “Every no is a step closer to your yes.” These words burned in his soul and ignited his faith, pushing him to press on when times got tough. “My past says one thing,” Rainey declares, “but my future says another!”
After he moved back to Orlando, Pastor David Swanson of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando connected Tobias with Central Care Mission. He stayed at the mission until he was able to get on his feet. He was expected to contribute to the cost of his stay, so Rainey searched for a job and found one in short order. Soon, history repeated itself and he was out looking for another. Never losing faith, he went looking again, but his background became an issue for the next three jobs. During this time, he saved enough money to rent an apartment and purchase a car. He also found a church home. In 2016 he married the sister of a childhood friend who he reconnected with in church. She serves as the leader of the praise team. They are working diligently towards purchasing a home, and they have a shared dream of continuing to serve in ministry and one day providing a path for people leaving prison to get back on their feet. The Raineys realize that many would have given up with the obstacles that Tobias has faced, and they want to create a space for people to feel encouraged that there is a pathway through which they can rebuild their lives and not be persistently punished for their past.
In recent times, Tobias has been working as a relief driver for a transportation company. He believes that God has a plan for his life, and that the rest of his story is yet to be told. “So many people have difficulty forgiving themselves for their failures, and they do not need society to constantly remind them of that past.” He feels blessed that the people he met at LifeWorks, and particularly the Foote family helped him learn to forgive himself and heal from his painful past. His resolute intent to make a difference is reflected in his statement that “If I can help one person, then my life and my pain will not have been in vain.”
1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up
Proverbs 27:9 ESV
“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel”