On Oct. 23, Prison Fellowship and other organizations from all over the globe gathered in New York City for the fifth annual Movement Day. This event brings together leadership teams from the world’s largest cities to build partnerships that help them better reach their respective cities with the grace-filled Gospel of Christ.
Prison Fellowship‘s president and CEO, Jim Liske, brought to the table his experience helping urban areas confront issues associated with crime and incarceration. Jim served as a plenary speaker and led an interactive track on “Reintegration Strategies for the Formerly Incarcerated.” He highlighted that because the needs of the incarcerated, their families, and their communities are too overwhelming for any one organization to meet, we must orchestrate a network that can provide holistic solutions. Business leaders, public policy makers, educators, and church leaders in attendance considered how they could help to creatively influence a culture of hope and healing in their cities.
Charles Jenkins, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Chicago, shared with Movement Day attendees what he’s been working on to influence this culture.
Parenting is one of the hardest jobs around. It takes all your strength, all your patience, and all your creativity.
But imagine how much harder it gets when the children’s father goes to prison. How does a mom explain his absence to her kids? To her relatives? To her boss? How will she handle all the extra responsibilities that now fall on her shoulders alone?
All the time, we get firsthand accounts of the hardships mothers face when their children’s father goes to prison. One mother of three wrote us asking for prayer. She loves her husband of 10 years very much, and now she barely has the strength to get out of bed in the morning. Another, a mother of a 7-year-old and a 9-year-old, is struggling to provide for her family’s needs. And a third mom wrote to say she was moved to tears when she found out that Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program is dedicated to helping children through the emotional challenges of having a parent in prison.
When you support Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program, you are standing with countless mothers—and also grandmothers, dads, aunts, uncles, and foster parents—who are caring for boys and girls with a parent in prison. You are getting down with them in the trenches of life, letting them know they are not alone. You are acting as a living expression of the love of Christ.
Angel Tree is active in every state in the country. In a community near you, prisoners’ children and their parents need your help. To learn how to volunteer or donate, visit www.angeltree.org.
On a recent broadcast of the Missions Radio program, Prison Fellowship President and CEO Jim Liske discusses the work of Prison Fellowship with host Ken Mitchell. During the hour-long program, Liske talks about the church within the prison walls, the importance of ministry to the families of prisoners, and churches creating “communities of restoration” for prisoners when they return to society.
“I think Matthew 25 is really a strategy for revival,” Liske says. “… Can you imagine having 700,000 people coming back to our communities every year who knew Jesus and were prepared to come home and bring restoration to their communities? What would happen to our country over 10 years? I think we would experience revival, and I think it would come right out of America’s prisons. I think for our churches to embrace this is not embracing doing ministry to a group of people, it’s embracing doing ministry with them, and it may very well be what transforms our country.”
Liz Stanosheck worked for the Nebraska Department of Corrections for 20 years. During that time, she wished there were more programs for incarcerated women in the state.
Now as an area director for Prison Fellowship Nebraska, Liz is working to change this—bringing more programs to the female prisoners she works with.
Earlier this month, Liz coordinated with the DOC and Women of Faith to take 43 prisoners to Lincoln for Women of Faith’s “From Survival to Revival,” a conference about making it through the hard times in life.
A version of this article originally appeared on the National Fatherhood Initiative website, and is used here with permission. To learn more about the National Fatherhood Initiative, visit www.fatherhood.org.
There are 2.7 million children with a parent in prison or jail. Ninety-five percent (95%) of all inmates will eventually be released. Ninety-two percent (92%) of parents in prison are fathers. Most—2 out of 3 inmates—will reoffend and be back in prison.
When it comes to fatherhood and prison, we are locking too many dads in jail with little to no help. The fathers behind bars are not connecting with their families from behind prison walls or upon release. These dads need help. They need our help or they are likely to reoffend.
The father absence crisis in America is real. When we talk about father absence, we mention the U.S. Census Bureau’s statistic that 24 million children—one out of three—live without their dad in the home. Over 13,000 of you have viewed The Father Absence Crisis in America. We received lots of feedback on that post. Some readers said, “Great, now we know the problem; what’s the solution?”
A few months ago, the editors at Real Simple asked our very own Jim Liske to share his take on the virtue of compassion with their eight million readers. In the November issue, now on newsstands, Prison Fellowship‘s president and CEO voices the importance of caring for prisoners and their families.
The article, “5 Small Ways to Show Compassion,” features the wise words of five diverse leaders who each share their best tip for expressing compassion. Jim’s advice is “see yourself in them.” He briefly recounts the personal story of his nephew’s incarceration–an encounter that provided him with a new sense of empathy for families struggling with situations like his. Once we recognize that any of us could be facing similar challenges, it becomes easier to extend compassion to others in the same way God has extended grace to us.
With more than two million Americans behind bars, every community is home to families in need of our support as they face the challenges associated with incarceration. In the article, Jim mentions a couple ways we can reach out in compassion to prisoners and their families: by coming alongside children who are growing up while their parents are incarcerated or advocating for legislation that supports restorative justice and promotes beneficial in-prison programming.
As the holiday season approaches, we hope these ideas will spur Real Simple readers to put their compassion in action!
You can read the full article featuring Jim on realsimple.com.
When Israel was almost overcome by surrounding nations, Gideon and his 300 men encircled the enemy camp with torches hidden inside of earthenware jars. On a signal, they broke their jars, began to yell, and let their torches shine forth. The enemy army, convinced they were about to be attacked by a superior force, fled in confusion (Judges 7).
In a similar way, the restoration of hurting communities starts with brokenness. When He wants to bring healing, God does a surprising thing: He calls broken people to come help. In particular, we’ve discovered that He calls prisoners and ex-prisoners, who have experienced firsthand the pain of addiction, violence, and futile thinking, to come to the rescue of those still trapped in the same cycle. As those broken people show up, light shines forth, and the powers of darkness flee!
Across the country, Prison Fellowship Ministries offers seminary-level Christian leadership training and faith-based reentry opportunities to men and women behind bars, so that when they are released from prison, they are ready to shine the light of Christ in their communities and rout the Enemy. Hundreds are in training right now to continue the work of restoration in their neighborhoods!
God uses broken people like me and you, too. Have you considered volunteering to work with prisoners, families, or legislators, but wondered whether you were qualified enough? Right now, we need volunteer leaders whom God is calling to lead ministry in their states. We need advocates who will call their legislators to speak up for restorative justice. We need churches who will seek out children and families on the margins of life. Don’t let fear hold you back—that’s where the light and love of Christ can come pouring through. That’s where restoration starts.
A version of the following story will be featured in an upcoming Inside Journal, Prison Fellowship’s quarterly newspaper for prisoners. If you would like to view past issues of Inside Journal, or would like to contribute to providing this resource for men and women behind bars, click here.
Jorge Garcia was just 13 years old his first time in a juvenile detention facility. For him, it was a badge of honor.
“It made me think I was cool,” says Jorge. “But I was only a kid. I didn’t know where all this was going to take me.”
Jorge was born in Mexico but immigrated to San Diego with his family when he was 11. “I found out that it was a different language, a different culture,” he remembers.
Dr. Jeffrey Russell loves helping others.
Every Friday he drives into Tulsa, Oklahoma, to serve dinner and teach a class in Christian doctrine to the homeless and incarcerated.
Russell has been a chiropractor in nearby Sand Springs since 1995, and he sees his profession as another way to help people. After a chiropractor helped him heal from a high school wrestling injury, Russell decided he wanted to do the same for others.
This past winter, Russell connected with another group of people who needed his help: the 2.7 million children in America with an incarcerated parent. These children often feel confused and alone because of their parents’ mistakes. They are five times more likely to live in poverty than other children, and they’re also at high risk for emotional and behavioral problems, such as depression and drug use.
Last Christmas, Russell had the opportunity to share with some of these kids that their futures aren’t set in stone by their parents’ choices. They can thrive in life despite their situations because their Heavenly Father walks beside them.
An Invitation to Help
For Russell, the door to this ministry opened in November 2013 when he started talking with a patient—the husband of Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree Program Specialist Mary Hamelin.
Mary and her husband shared with Russell what the Angel Tree program is all about: It’s a national outreach by local church congregations who deliver the Gospel message and Christmas gifts to children in the name of their incarcerated parents.
Russell wanted to help. He presented the ministry to Pastor Steve Bookout at his church, Prattwood Assembly of God in Sand Springs. Russell explained the outreach would be an immediate blessing to the children and would also connect Prattwood Assembly with parents and grandparents for fellowship and a way to witness.
Bookout loved the idea of getting his congregation involved in Angel Tree. With Christmas just around the corner, time would be a challenge.