By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
MOUNT PLEASANT — After serving in the ministry for 35 years, including 26 as a pastor, Walt Clot (pronounced Clo) and his wife Betty moved from Virginia to be near their children who were living in Middle Tennessee.
Instead of having hours upon hours of carefree time the Clots soon embarked in a ministry that would have them working nonstop and provide only three weeks of a vacation longer than five days in a 12-year span.
But, they would have had it no other way. They have devoted their lives to The Discipleship House, a self-supported ministry funded by individuals and churches with assistance from Baptists in Maury Baptist Association and Tennessee Baptists through the Golden Offering for Tennessee Missions.
But she soon learned that once the women were released from jail, many of them had nowhere to go and many of them ended up back in jail. “There was a need for a place for the ladies to go after getting out of jail,” she said.
The idea for The Discipleship House was birthed. A series of “miracles” led them to ownership of a former church that had been given to the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. With labor from volunteer teams from Maury Association, the church building was converted into a home to house women released from jail. It opened with Betty Clot and Deena Potts (now deceased) as co-directors.
Betty Clot recalls the excitement of getting the home ready. The day before the women were to arrive “we had everything we needed except beds,” she recalled. After praying that God would meet that need, she had five of the six beds she needed by that night, Betty said.
The Discipleship House, which can house up to five ladies at one time, is a transitional home designed to help the former prisoners to “get back on their feet.” They can stay at the house for up to eight months. They are expected to find jobs and pay a minimal cost for their room and board. They also are expected to help with all the household “chores” that must be done, including cooking and cleaning. When the Clots cannot be there, volunteers take over as The Discipleship House requires 24/7 supervision.
During their first month at the home the women are involved in extensive Bible study. “God’s Word is what sets you free,” Betty affirmed.
The ladies, after they are earning an income, are placed on a tight budget that is managed by Walt Clot. Their budget includes a tithe, money for rent and transportation, personal expenses, and savings. The goal is that when the ladies leave the home they will have a job and have saved enough for two months rent, he said.
The Clots noted it has not always been easy. Most of the ladies have done “hard drugs, alcohol, and prostitution,” they said. As a result, some of them have had problems in observing and obeying the rules. “They have consequences for poor behavior,” Betty said, acknowledging that a few have been asked to leave.
Betty recalled one woman in particular who had a terrible attitude, but eventually came around. When she was asked what changed for her, she responded, “I finally got sick of who I was.”
Betty observed they deal daily with women who have been abused or hurt by family and who do not have a sense of self-worth. “We deal with love,” she affirmed.
She noted many of the ladies view God as a “stern judge.” “We help them understand He is a loving God who is there to lift them up, not smack them down.”
Kathy Henson is a resident who has been at the home for about six months. She has seen the love displayed by the Clots firsthand. “She always tells me how much she loves me,” Henson said of Betty.
Henson said she had accepted Christ long before she came to The Discipleship House, but had strayed from God. “I have drawn much closer to God,” she affirmed. “If you don’t get close to the Lord here, it’s your fault,” Henson added. “You have to want recovery and want God in your life.”
She acknowledged that she had a dependence upon alcohol in her past. “I would not have stayed sober if I had not come here,” she acknowledged.
Henson is just one of about 210 women who have come through The Discipleship House over the past 12 years. “We see God transform lives all the time,” Betty said.
Joe Sorah, compassion ministry specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, observed the couple have served many years with no pay. “They haven’t enjoyed vacations or personal time for just the two of them. Instead of coasting into retirement, they have spent their retirement years and income to help deliver women from addiction to a relationship to Christ.
“Walt and Betty are making a difference in lives by giving their lives away. They have sacrificed their retirement years to invest their lives in ladies who need direction, guidance, and love. Walt and Betty understand that following Jesus requires ministry to the hurting among us. Their impact will only be measured in eternity,” Sorah said.
He added that The Discipleship House is “a wonderful example of dedicated people, concerned churches, and a compassionate association working together with the TBMB to meet a need in their community. As that model is followed across Tennessee, needs will be met, lives will be touched, and Christ will be made known.”
Dale Ledbetter, director of missions for Maury Association, agreed. “God dropped this ministry out of the sky,” he recalled. It was the idea and vision of Betty and Walt but God “used the kingdom to make it happen,” he said. Ledbetter noted the Clots have been an example to the association. “They have shown that even late in life you can still be productive. They have devoted themselves to this ministry.
“We were all privileged to be a part of it and it has been an honor to watch this ministry,” he added.
The Clots know God has blessed their ministry with the women. Their primary concern now is for the future. Betty is 76 and Walt is 81.
“We are praying for someone who will eventually take over the ministry,” Betty said.
Walt agreed. “We know God has someone for this ministry. They just have to find us,” he said. For more information about the ministry, call Betty Clot at 931-626-0207.