I interviewed Conor Tait in a local coffee shop. When I spotted a young man sitting expectantly at a back table, I didn’t need a picture to know this young man was Conor. Despite his casual attire, complete with a Detroit Lions t-shirt and a low-lying camouflage ball cap, his expression and posture emanated anticipation. He clearly had a story, God’s story, burning in his heart to share.
Conor grew up in a unique family atmosphere. “My mom is a same sex partner. She had me via in vitro fertilization. She and her partner raised me. We attended church regularly, although I never really knew God. I would simply show up, do whatever the ministers told me to do, and do my own thing the rest of the time.” When Conor reached middle school, he was bullied. He faced difficult questions about his family unit. “It really sorta broke me down. By tenth grade I was really depressed and suicidal. I became a very angry person. I rebelled through my anger toward God and my parents. Why wouldn’t God give me a father?” As I listened, Conor dropped his head to his chest. He took a long, deep breath before continuing his story. “I couldn’t forgive my mom and her partner. I rebelled against their authority through reckless behavior: drinking, smoking and selling marijuana, mostly self- destructive activity. I still showed up to church every Sunday. And I would weep in the pews. The Holy Spirit was breaking me, but I kept turning my back on Him, back to the nightlife.”
As the years passed, he proved to be a bright and ambitious young man. He launched a successful landscaping company with five, full-time employees serving hundreds of customers. His wealth grew while living at his mom’s house with little to no bills. “By the time I was 18, I owned four cars and three motorcycles. I’d spent tens of thousands of dollars on drugs and material possessions. Accumulating wealth fueled power in me. I wanted more of anything; more of everything.
This pursuit of power and possessions was the theme of Conor’s life before Christ. Even with his wealth and material possessions, he recalls being miserable. The cycle of trying to fill his void with worldly things continued into his senior year of high school. Things changed the summer before college. Conor was arrested for assault. He pursued his higher education while fighting the long, drawn out court case. Conor plead no contest to disorderly conduct and served probation. He continued to pursue his degree in criminal justice; he wanted to be a detective. In 2014, Conor received an internship with the Dayton police. On his patrol’s, he witnessed the poverty and agony on the streets of Dayton. In the jails, he watched people with absolutely nothing at their lowest point. “God broke my heart over these men and the west side of Dayton where I was patrolling. That summer I started tutoring in the jails teaching a GED class.” Finally, Conor had enough. He came home and threw his hands up saying, “God, I cannot keep going like this. Let your will be done, Father. Guide me.”
He joined the Navigators youth group in his final semester and they invited him to attend a Christian conference. He said yes, although he didn’t understand why he felt so compelled to go. “The first night October 3, 2014 the minister spoke about the living water of Christ. I remember sitting in tears, paralyzed in my seat. I could hardly breathe the Holy Spirit’s presence was so strong in that auditorium. I thought, what do I have to do to get this Living Water?” The final screen in the sermon popped up and it said a single word:
“I just let go. God saved me that night. The next morning everything was different. I had joy. I no longer held resentment and anger toward my parents. I was free. The rest of the semester I would walk to class and cry. I didn’t care who was watching. Tears of Joy! I reached out to the chaplain of the jail where I was tutoring and told him what God had done to my life. I wanted to start a Bible study for the men in jail.”
Conor’s life has never been the same. He shares his personal testimony regularly to the men he ministers to in jail. God uses his story to relate to other men. He can say, with the power the Holy Spirit has provided him, “God brought me out of a life of crime."
Since November, he has shared the gospel every Monday night to a crowd of 20 to 50 men. “God put incarcerated men on my heart. Right around Halloween, I had a vision during prayer to start a ministry called Saving Grace Ministries.”
Saving Grace Ministries is now a non-profit Conor founded, along with a friend, to serve the incarcerated people of west Dayton. To be a present and active ministry team in the midst of the community they serve, they moved into a house in west Dayton. He and his co-founder he are in the jail two times a week ministering to the men. God has blessed them with an abundance of Bibles, clothing, and hygiene kits to provide for the men.
“I love working with these men and sharing my story. I am living proof that God can repair any life and give these men hope. Even though the world condemns them, even though some of them may never see the free world again, God still loves them. Oh, to see some of the most angry, racist men change, come to faith in Christ, to be renewed, to have fire, to get into the Word!”
With two fists balled and lightly banging the table between us, Conor can hardly sit still in his contagious enthusiasm. “God is giving me an eternal perspective - no longer living for myself or the things of this world, but kingdom focused. It’s been amazing to see God move, to experience His peace even in the midst of setbacks, to feel joy, and the absolute thrill of obedience. I’m excited to see where this ministry goes, to keep saying YES to God. I firmly believe there’s no limit to a life fully surrendered to God. It’s an incredible adventure.”
Will you join me in prayer for Conor Tait and the mission of Saving Grace ministries as they share the Good News to the incarcerated people of West Dayton and beyond?
Author: Carrie Kempisty
Photographer: Hilary Tebo