Jim Liske

The Miracle of Angel Tree

By Jim Liske | Posted December 15, 2014

Liske_154Angel Tree blesses hundreds of thousands of children each year, but did you know that it also leads their incarcerated parents closer to Jesus?

At a time of year that can be full of sorrow for parents separated from their children, Angel Tree allows moms and dads to reach out from behind prison bars with a message of love for their families. As friends like you enable them to have a moment of connection, wounded hearts begin to heal from the pain and shame of the past.

A prison chaplain in California wrote to me just last month to let me know the difference Angel Tree makes for the men in his facility, but his words of thanks really go to you:

“The gift of Angel Tree for the men here comes from your organization, and it is a huge blessing. These men are separated from their children and broken-hearted. You help heal some of those wounds with the miracle of Angel Tree. I love how your ministry follows up with the families who receive Angel Tree donations and benefits from hearing the good news and being connected to a church family. God bless all of you and from the men here … a huge Thank YOU! Keep doing what you are doing.”

The Angel Tree program helps chaplains build bridges of trust with prisoners, who may become more open to asking for a Bible or attending a chapel service once they see that people like you truly care for them and their families. Your investment in Angel Tree keeps paying off all year long, with parents as well as children!

To learn more about Angel Tree and how you can help, visit www.angeltree.org.

ThanksMas

By Jim Liske | Posted December 10, 2014

   My wife Cathy’s family calls this time of year ThanksMas. As Cathy’s brothers married, and we all moved away and starting having kids, her family made up this holiday to create a time to gather. The meal consists of both Thanksgiving and Christmas fare, and we give gifts. We play games and enjoy a weekend together without the pressure of needing to leave and visit with other relatives.

I have always enjoyed ThanksMas because it combines the focus of thanksgiving on what I am the most thankful for: Jesus, God with us. Our Heavenly Father, in His empathic love, came to us and pursued us, so that we could become part of His family. All else I am thankful for in this life flows from that supreme act of kindness.

As we move into the Angel Tree Christmas season, Cathy and I are eager to share about God’s great gift with the children and families of incarcerated parents. As we reflect on His generosity to us during this season, it seems only natural to share the Good News with the most vulnerable among us. The message that has been giving hope to the hopeless for two millennia is no less powerful today!

If you’ve been wanting to get involved in Angel Tree this Christmas, it’s not too late. Learn more about opportunities to give and serve by calling 1-800-55-ANGEL today. And have a Happy ThanksMas!

A Day of Thanksgiving

By Jim Liske | Posted December 1, 2014

Liske_154President Abraham Lincoln signed a document in 1863, declaring a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens” to fall on the last Thursday in November.

Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day proclamation came not at the victorious conclusion of the war, as might have been expected, but in the midst of its stormiest days, when the future of the country was far from certain. Likewise the holidays don’t always find us when we feel like celebrating. Sometimes we are in the middle of life’s biggest battles—illness, loneliness, grief, poverty, or depression might be pressing us hard.

But we can praise God just as sincerely in the middle of a hard-fought battle. Jesus often thanked His Father in the hour of need, before He performed a major miracle.

Ministry to prisoners, families, and all those affected by crime is rarely simple and often very difficult. But in the midst of the battle to bring hope and restoration to the lives of the broken, I give thanks to God that you are fighting alongside us for the cause of the Gospel. And together, we can already give thanks for the victory over sin Jesus purchased by His death and resurrection.

Every time I walk into a prison, meet a governor, speak in a church, or hug a prisoner’s child, I tell them how thankful I am for you. When I ask myself if there is hope for the incarcerated, I praise God that you are giving us the resources and energy to serve prisoners and their families. The battle might not be over, but victory is sure, and we get to usher it in together! And that’s a reason for thanksgiving indeed

Meet Your Dividend

By Jim Liske | Posted November 24, 2014

Liske_154At a recent event in New York City, I was privileged to introduce Quovadis Marshall to a group pf people who financially support the ministries of Prison Fellowship.

“Q,” as we call him, shared his story: He was raised in poverty by a single mom who worked diligently to feed her kids. His grandma took him to church regularly, and he decided to follow Jesus in his late teens.

As a young man, however, Q ran into trouble with the law. In a heartbreaking picture of the cycle of crime, he wound up in prison at the same time as his father. But Q’s story was only just beginning behind bars.

Q entered a Prison Fellowship program, resumed his walk with Jesus, and began to take his faith more seriously than ever before. Since his release, Q has been a godly husband, father, and servant of the Lord. He is a prayer warrior. We were able to bring him on staff, and he is now leading a prisoner prayer movement.

When Q finished speaking, I asked he people in the room how the stock market had done that day. A round of groans followed, since Wall Street had performed poorly. I then put my arm around Q and said to my friends, “This is the dividend on your investment in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

As you invest in eternal things, the impact of redemption grows, spreading from changed life to changed life. Stocks may go up and down, but the Kingdom’s value never falls. Learn how to join this work financially today by clicking here.

Loving the Littlest

By Jim Liske | Posted November 17, 2014

Liske_154In the conversation about building safer communities, it’s easy to get caught up in the big topics: record-breaking incarceration rates, headline-grabbing crime trends, and large pieces of criminal justice legislation.

But it’s often the littlest ones among us who are hurt the most by crime. Young children do not understand the reasons for a parent’s absence, and older children feel hurt, betrayed, and confused. The incarceration of a parent will have a massive impact on a child’s present and future, yet they often get pushed to the side.

Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program shines the spotlight on boys and girls on the margins of society. In word and deed, volunteers show prisoners’ children they are special, beloved, and worthy of time and attention, as they present them with a Christmas gift, the Gospel message, and a personal note from their parent.

Thousands of churches are already partnering with Angel Tree to serve children this Christmas, but we need more, especially in the areas of greatest need. Would you and your church consider coming on board? There’s still time!

Here are the top five counties with the greatest unmet need:

  • Los Angeles County (CA): 699 children
  • Hidalgo (TX): 641 children
  • Shelby (TN): 612 children
  • Saint Louis (MO): 533 children
  • Wayne (MI): 480 children

Is your church in one of these counties, or do you know someone who is? Is the Spirit leading you to take a step of faith and obedience to love the littlest victims of crime? Call 1-800-55-ANGEL to speak with an Angel Tree program specialist today.

Jim Liske on Serving Prisoners

By Prison Fellowship | Posted November 12, 2014

A version of the following article appeared in the July issue of Pentecostal Evangel, an Assemblies of God publication.

Jim Liske is president and CEO of Prison Fellowship Ministries, which works in prison ministry, advocacy, and Christian leadership. Since assuming his position in 2011, he has overseen Prison Fellowship’s efforts to build the Church inside America’s prison walls, advocate for principles of restorative criminal justice at the state and national levels, and empower churches to influence the culture. Liske recently shared his ministry priorities with Scott Harrup, Pentecostal Evangel managing editor.

evangel: What led to your ministry with Prison Fellowship?

JIM LISKE: I was a pastor for 28 years at various churches in Canada and the U.S. Twenty years ago, if you had told me I would be doing ministry with prisoners and their families, I wouldn’t have believed you. But through circumstances in my family and in our church in western Michigan, God showed me we are all prisoners of our own kinds of sin. We are all recovering from something and re-entering from somewhere.

Our church started a powerful parachurch ministry, helping those returning to society from prison and working with the Michigan Department of Corrections. God called my wife, Cathy, and me to Prison Fellowship in 2011.

evangel: Why is ministering to prisoners and their families integral to the Gospel?

LISKE: When you read the Bible through the lens of ministering to prisoners and their families, stories start to jump off the page. Joseph was wrongly imprisoned for an alleged sexual offense. Moses was a murderer. Paul started out as a notorious persecutor of the Early Church. This is the very heart of the Gospel, God taking men and women from the depths of sin and redeeming and restoring them to their full potential. In Matthew 25:36, Jesus says that when we visit the prisoner, we are visiting Him.

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A Face in the Crowd

By Jim Liske | Posted November 11, 2014

Liske_154Recently I was speaking at a conference in New York City and leading a panel discussion about men and women coming back to the community.

At a break, as others were filing out to get refreshments, a man came toward me. The look on his face told me he knew me. He looked very familiar. I told him I knew we had met, and I asked him when and where.

He said, “At Sing Sing Prison last year.”

If hit me like a ton of bricks. His name is Kris, and when I last saw him, he was wearing a standard-issue prison uniform. He told me he had only been out a few days. I was overjoyed to see him again.

When I met Kris, he was serving his third sentence. He decided to follow Jesus when he attended a Prison Fellowship meeting. He repented. He spent time learning to follow Jesus and not his own selfish desires. As he approached his release date, he made plans to apply for a job, and not plans to score a fix. When he was released, he and his wife sought out a church. He came to the session on reentry so that he could learn how to help others.

It’s one thing to talk about the 700,000 prisoners who come home to communities like yours and mine every year. It’s another thing to look a man like Kris in the face, knowing that because someone had the courage to share the Gospel with him, he has been redeemed and restored. He is no longer part of the problem, but the solution.

Let’s go make more stories like this one happen! Learn how at www.prisonfellowship.org.

Taking the Hill

By Jim Liske | Posted November 3, 2014

Liske_154Sometimes it becomes crystal clear why we do what de do. I had one of those moments of extraordinary clarity on Sunday as I forced my aching feet up Heartbreak Hill at the finish line of the Marine Corps Marathon.

I had run the marathon in honor of the many veterans who are behind bars. I prayed for a different incarcerated Marine during each mile of the race. Their names were written on my shirt. Many Marines thanked Prison Fellowship on behalf of buddies who came home from war scarred, trying to numb their wounded souls with drugs and alcohol. They thanked us for simply standing beside a group that society prefers to ignore.

The finish line was at the base of the Iwo Jima Memorial. As I saw it, a moving tribute to thousands who were wounded and killed to take a hill out of enemy hands, my brief pain on Heartbreak Hill was put into perspective. I thought of Calvary, the hill our Lord took at the cost of his own life. As men and women have died to give us liberty on this side of the grave, Jesus suffered agony to give us liberty that will last for all eternity.

In grateful response to our King, we now serve in order to bring freedom and restoration to the souls of men and women, including those who have served our country in uniform.

Our race has its pains and its heartbreaking ascents, too. But in the end, the monuments we leave behind are lives restored to their potential in Jesus. Won’t you run this race with us? Learn how at www.prisonfellowship.org.

Stand with a Mom

By Jim Liske | Posted October 28, 2014

Liske_154Parenting 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.

A Strategy for Revival

By Steve Rempe | Posted October 27, 2014

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.”

 




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