Once homeless, Jeff Kurylo now feeds others
by Laurene F. Guenther
Jeff Kurylo was 13 years old the first time he used crystal meth. By the time he was 17, he was using it every day. He was 21 in 2003 when he robbed a bank. He spent three years in prison, then was soon using meth again. In 2007, he was back in jail. A week before his release, his mom died tragically. “I really went crazy after that,” he says. “I started injecting and living life really, really recklessly.” After another arrest in 2010, Kurylo got help for his addictions.
Then his best friend committed suicide. “I just lost my mind,” he says. “I went on a six-month crime spree that was just a suicidal mission to either get killed by the cops or kill myself.” In 2011, he was re-arrested, sentenced to seven years. Fourteen months into that sentence, Kurylo was dealing drugs in prison, angry, and constantly fighting.
“One night I was lying in my cell,” he says. “Another inmate had threatened to kill me, and I believed they would. I remembered being on the farm with my grandpa and my mom and my sister. … I saw the progression of my life, how I went from being a farm kid to robbing banks and being on the run … And I just started crying out to God. I felt such sorrow and remorse,” Kurylo says. “I was remembering things … crimes I did, and people who got hurt along the way. I was just crying to God to take my life. I felt so bad for the things that I’d done, and I wanted to change.”
The next day, everything was different. “I woke up in the morning, just completely set free,” he says. “Different than the person that went to bed. … I felt so amazing.”
That morning, the guy who’d threatened to kill Kurylo came to talk to him. “He looked right into my eyes and it was the most gentle look I’ve ever seen, although this guy is a killer,” Kurylo says. “He put his hand on my shoulder and he said, ‘If you ever want to talk, you can come to my cell.’ That’s when it hit me, — God has done something here.”
Kurylo started studying the Bible, and people saw him change. The younger inmates who’d delivered Kurylo’s drugs started changing too. “A lot of them started hanging out in my cell,” he says. “We started doing Bible studies, and we started going to church (in prison) together.”
Fellow inmates even gave him a new name, calling him Freejeff, because he kept saying, “I’ve been set free!” Kurylo was released from prison in December 2013.
He met Kourtney a few months later, and they were married in April 2015. They have two daughters, Kyra and Faith.
“If I would have told God, ‘This is the life that I want. This is going to be incredible and amazing,’ I still wouldn’t have had everything that I have today,” he says.
He’s grateful for God’s transforming work, and for those who supported him, especially Kourtney, and his sister Carrie and her husband, who always stood by him.
But he’s not content to quietly enjoy the life God redeemed. He and Kourtney now reach out to people whose lives are like his used to be.
Every week, they sell Banana Cake by Kourtney at Edmonton’s South Common Farmers Market and St. Albert Market. Ten percent of sales goes towards providing meals and other help for people experiencing homelessness. The events are at New Destiny Church, near Edmonton’s Mustard Seed. They try to host events once a month, so people of the area will know and trust them. “Feeding is good, but it’s not as sustainable as relationship and building that trust,” Kurylo says. “We can point them to (New Destiny) Church. Like, ‘Here’s a good church. Go and get discipled.’”
In 2017 and again this August, they stuffed about 100 donated backpacks and purses with useful items, then gave them all away. “I know from living on the street that just having someplace to keep your stuff, so it stays dry, is priceless,” Kurylo says. “We just hand it all out and pray for everyone. … Number one is prayer and salvation, and just loving on people.”
On a very hot day this August, they also handed out bottles of water. And at their most recent events, Will Chicksi, a hairdresser, has come and provided haircuts for dozens of people. “The difference that it made for people just to get a haircut!” Kurylo says. “It makes them feel so good about themselves.”
Kurylo invites us to pray that God would help them reach more people experiencing homelessness. “All things are possible through God. There’s no such thing as hopelessness in the kingdom,” he says. “God is bigger than any of our problems, bigger than our addictions, whatever it may be.”
To learn more or to donate, see Banana Cake by Kourtney on Facebook.