How Holy Spirit Transformed a Convicted Felon Into a Successful Christian Businessman

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Dean Blankenship knows about the favor of God—from personal experience. God's favor has kept him out of prison long-term, allowed him to reclaim his building contractor's license and served as the catalyst for building his successful business.

And it is God's favor that has allowed him to honor the Lord with the firstfruits of his labor. Blankenship sees his company—Hosanna Building Contractors in the Central Florida city of Apopka—as a living sacrifice for the faithfulness God has shown him.

The only way Blankenship says he can describe it is "supernatural intervention."

"Every instance along the way is an example of the Holy Spirit interceding on my behalf," said Blankenship, 54. "I have seen a lot of crazy things happen. ... In a nutshell, I should be dead, or at the very least, be a couple of years out of prison. There is no reason I'm alive today other than the grace God has shown me. It's been an amazing journey, and God continues to amaze me every day."

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'Crazy Miracles Over and Over'

Blankenship described his lifestyle in 2003 as that of a "full-blown, $500-a-day crack-cocaine user." Arrested 27 times in 38 years, he was convicted of numerous felonies. But after his arrest Aug. 7, 2003, God intervened—in a big way.

In a prison cell, he found himself sobbing uncontrollably, unaware that his father had died that night. Blankenship says the Holy Spirit then took hold and shook him, sobering him up and prompting him to make radical changes.

"I said, 'God, if You're real, I'm ready for whatever," Blankenship said. "It's as if the scales were removed from my eyes. I could see myself for who I had become. I knew I had issues, but all of a sudden, everything hit me like a brick wall.

"If it was His will for me to go to jail for 10 or 12 years, then I would go and serve Him there faithfully. It took multiple miracles, but He kept me out of prison because He had a better plan for me. I made a commitment from Day One that I was all in for Him, and there was no turning back."

Prosecutors showed no mercy to Blankenship, who had charges pending in two counties. But one judge "took pity" and sentenced him to go to work for Total Freedom, a ministry based in Ocoee, Florida. Another judge warned Blankenship's attorney not to even attempt a plea bargain.

Three months later, however, Blankenship appeared again before that same judge, who sentenced him to serve concurrent time at Total Freedom.

A few months into his service at the ministry, more charges were brought, and Blankenship was arrested again. Knowing only God could keep him out of prison, he signed a plea bargain that would confine him for 2½ years. His pastor at the time, Guy Iannello, attended the hearing and asked if he could speak on Blankenship's behalf. He did so for about 10 minutes, and the pastor's wife followed with another 10-minute plea to the judge.

At the end of the hearing, Blankenship says, the judge ripped up the plea bargain and instead sentenced him to two years of community control and 10 years' probation. As part of the sentence, Blankenship was ordered to pay back $60,000 in restitution and court costs.

"It was just like these crazy miracles over and over, and God showed me this incredible favor," Blankenship said. "I ended up going to work for another company and went together with another man into a subcontracting business, and I started making four times the money I had ever made in my life. It enabled me to pay off the money I owed and to get off of probation early. But afterward, I was faced with a whole other set of incredible challenges."

'God Seared Their Hearts'

A convicted felon cannot obtain a contractor's license in the state of Florida. Blankenship says he was told that more times than he could count, and he didn't want to waste time.

Yet Blankenship believed the Lord repeatedly told him to endure the cumbersome application process and that He had a plan. One of the questions asked of the applicant is "Have you ever been arrested? If so, please explain."

"I didn't even know how many times I had been arrested, but when I went through the paperwork, I found out it was 27 times," Blankenship said. "I filled out the package and mailed it in, and I took the test. By this time, I had built up some credibility, and I went in to face the licensing board, not knowing that God had placed an angel there for me.

"Point-blank, they asked me why they would let someone like me into someone's home to negotiate a contract. I told them I wasn't the same guy I was before, and I shared my testimony with them. God seared their hearts, and they wound up giving me a license but putting me on probation for four years. Again, it was supernatural intervention. I was told if everything wasn't up to standard at any point in the process, they would pull my license immediately. It went so well that I was taken off probation in two years."

While the U.S. economy suffered a recession in 2008, Blankenship and his wife, Jane—whom he married in 2007—started Hosanna Building Contractors. Jane serves as CEO and CSO (chief servant officer) and Dean as company president. The first six months, the business brought in a quarter-million dollars.

"Yet another miracle," he said.

One of Hosanna's first jobs was a small project for Frito-Lay. The job brought in only $2,000, but it laid a foundation for a strong relationship between Blankenship and Frito-Lay Southeast Region Customer Service Senior Manager Jim Kilp, who wrote this testimonial for the Hosanna website:

"[Hosanna] is a highly valued partner that has performed countless building projects for us ranging from hundreds of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. [The company] demonstrated high capability using high-quality materials, craftsmanship and timely completion. [Hosanna's] highly involved owners champion follow-thru and ensure a high level of satisfaction/consistent reliability needed to sustain our long-term partnership for over a decade."

In the months and years following, Hosanna acquired a client roster that includes Winn-Dixie, Dunkin', Subway, National General Insurance and Ryder Truck Rental.

Blankenship says he doesn't share his testimony with clients right away, but eventually works his faith story into the relationship.

"When you share your story, especially one like mine—and I've never left anything out, including the lowest of the lows—it resonates with people," Blankenship said. "Not everybody is impressed or touched by it, but almost everybody is because it is always about giving glory to God."

'The Reason He's Alive'

The name for Blankenship's business, Hosanna, comes from the Hebrew word hoshana, which means "to save" or "to rescue." When choosing the name, Blankenship drew from Psalm 118:25, which says "Save us, we ask You, O Lord; O Lord, we ask You, send now success."

Blankenship's wife, Jane, who also works in the business, finds the company name meaningful.

"Hosanna represents Christ, and when you hear the word, it resonates with a biblical meaning," Jane said. "Jesus saved Dean, literally rescued him. Jesus is the reason he's alive and that he has this business. We wanted it all, including the name, to point to Jesus and His saving grace."

With a name like his company has, Blankenship says, nobody can mistake to whom the business belongs.

"It's all His," he said. "First and foremost, we wanted to create a business that glorified God. We're really big on the Scripture where Jesus says, 'But whoever will deny Me before man, him will I also deny before My Father who is in heaven.' What better way to proclaim Him than through what name is on the door?"

Hosanna Building Contractors employs 22 people and more than 60 subcontractors. Every work day, Hosanna employees, whether on- or off-site, gather for a conference call that includes a devotional and prayer time. Blankenship believes his and his wife's witness and business practices have impacted many employees' lives.

"People see that we're genuine and sincere, and they embrace that," Blankenship said. "We have seen a lot of people grow closer to God. I see the calling on my life is really less about evangelism and more about discipleship."

'We Have a Calling'

At the top of Hosanna's website is a Scripture Blankenship says no Christian businessman should ever disobey: "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Jesus Christ" (Col. 3:23-24).

"We have many life verses, but that one is really about understanding you are not just working for a paycheck," he said. "We have a calling on our lives, and part of that calling, whether you own a business or work for someone else, is recognizing that God is the owner of everything and we are just the stewards.

"Once I came into relationship with the Lord, I recognized that I had never really committed to anything fully in my life. I knew if this was going to work, if this was real and everything I had read in the Bible was true, then I had to sell out 100 percent. It was a personal challenge for me, but I knew that's what I had to do."

And in a society that has become increasingly hostile to the gospel, Blankenship says he will never apologize for the boldness with which he professes Jesus to potential clients. In the nearly 10 years of Hosanna's existence, Blankenship says he has never encountered resistance to his witness.

"I praise God for that," Blankenship said. "I know so many businessmen who are strong believers, but they don't put it out there like I do because of the stigma in creates in our culture. I get that, but I don't understand it.

"My question with that is, 'Where is the trust?' If God is my provider, then who cares if someone rejects me when I talk about Him? Thankfully, we have never been rejected for putting our faith out there like that. God has taken care of us because of our faithfulness to Him."

'Be Still and Know'

Blankenship has experienced physical challenges in recent years. He has undergone two knee replacements since 2014 and a quintuple heart bypass in August 2019. But he says God has taken him through valleys to teach him crucial lessons and to build his leadership skills.

"In all the time we've been in business, we've done several thousand jobs ranging from $2,000 to $2.5 million," Blankenship said. "I've probably made the decision to take on a couple hundred that I wasn't supposed to, and that's something God spoke to me about. If you're getting a check in your spirit about a potential client, then there is probably something behind that."

Blankenship hasn't wasted his trials, though.

"He has used this period of time to strengthen my relationship with Him and return me to the joy of my salvation," he said. "He wants me to understand that, going forward, there are some things I have been holding onto that I need to relinquish. I need to learn to pause and not try to fix everything myself. If there is one thing that has been an issue with my obedience, it's to be still and know that He is God."

Shawn A. Akers is a content development editor for Charisma Media.

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