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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Sometimes unexpected opportunities lead to a true calling.
For local pastor Ilinda Jackson, that was the case when a local church called – needing help with women’s prisons.

“Which, I declined several times, over and over again,” Jackson recalled.

But eventually she said yes, and Jackson became a chaplain at the Department of Corrections.
That opportunity – opening yet another door.

“That was an incredible beginning of an incredible process led me to open transitional houses in the community, finding ways for women to be successful,” Jackson said.

Through her charity, Raising the Standard Ministries, Jackson operates those six transitional homes.
There, she’s helped women find both professional and personal success after divorce, abuse or incarceration.

“If the family, that foundation is broken, then it’s very, very difficult for them to move forward,” said Jackson.

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Ilinda Jackson

All of this on top of starting The Secret Place Community Church, where she forwards her salary as senior pastor to the transitional homes.

“To see everything she does and she never gets tired and she’s just doing it all for love is just absolutely incredible,” said church member Kallena Haynes.

Haynes felt that love first-hand when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, a disease that had taken multiple members of her family.

“As well as my father who passed away from esophagus cancer,” said Haynes.

Haynes started writing her will.

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Ilinda Jackson’s book ‘Empowering Women After Prision’

But then her pastor, Ilinda heard about the mother of five’s situation.

“Her words of inspiration, her prayers, her encouragement was just life-changing for me and it made me realize that I can fight this thing. I can do this,” Haynes said.

Church member Lillie Armstrong says Jackson doesn’t just talk the Lord’s talk – she also walks His walk, stepping in during her time of need – when bed bugs destroyed the furniture in her home.

Ilinda and the church providing Lillie with all she needs and more.

“Just to let you know I’m still enjoying the bed, the couch, the living room set, everything and so that was an expression of love that I have never experienced through a church, or really anyone,” said Armstrong.

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A loving embrace.

Jackson and her church host after-school programs along with clothing and food giveaways. All critical needs in Northeast Oklahoma City, often referred to as a food desert.

“Our goal is to love people to health, to care about people deeply,” said Jackson. “We can’t just judge a situation unless we’re willing to love the person through it.”

Jackson’s friends say she’s remarkable.

“Before I came here I just thought church was sitting on Sundays looking cute but here I realized we’re really here for the community and for the people and we’re here to make a difference,” Armstrong said.

They call her a life-changer, but Ilinda sees it differently.

“This is what anybody would do,” she said. “Would you not clothe someone? Would you not feed someone? Would you not take care of babies, you know? It’s just a natural response to humanity and when your heart is right, you can’t help but do right.”