Jim Liske

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.”

 

Where Restoration Starts

By Jim Liske | Posted October 20, 2014

Liske_154When 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.

Two Years to Live

By Jim Liske | Posted October 15, 2014

Liske_154I lost a good friend this week. He was killed in a tragic roadside accident, leaving behind his wife and three daughters. I was with his family at the hospital as they said their final good-byes and went home without him.

On my own way home, I remembered that he was only two years older than I am. Just 54 years old, and his life of earthly service to Jesus is over.

What if I only have two more years?

The answer? I will seek God in the midst of trial and triumph. I will love my family with all that God has given me. I will run to the hurting with the healing hope of Jesus. I will share grace and truth no matter what. I will seek out the broken people of this world behind prison walls, and deliver the restorative message of the One who saves us and gives each day on earth meaning. I will love, live, and serve each day as it might be my last.

What if you only had two years to live? Where would you put your time and your resources? In whom would you invest? If you’ve wanted to make ministry to prisoners and their families a part of your earthly service to Jesus, or if you’ve wanted to deepen your commitment, I challenge you to take the first step today. Learn how at prisonfellowship.org.

Finding Answers

By Jim Liske | Posted October 9, 2014

Liske_154Answers aren’t always easy to find in prison.

Behind bars, where people search for something to give them purpose and a sense of belonging, many religions and sects peddle their beliefs. In some units, where prisoners have no access to chapel services or other special events, the Truth can be even harder to spot.

Thankfully, for prisoners in more than 700 facilities, Prison Fellowship’s Inside Journal newspaper proclaims the Gospel through relevant, inspirational articles, distributed by chaplains and volunteers.

On prison visits, volunteers like Dave pass them out to prisoners hungry for answers. One man, who was especially touched by the articles he read, wrote this letter:

“I was lying on my bunk and this old man came up to my cell door and asked me if I wanted something to read. I got up and started talking to him, and my heart went out to this man in his 80′s named Dave. He slid the Inside Journal, Prison Fellowship’s newspaper for America’s prisons, Volume 23, No. 2, Spring 2014 under my cell door and told me, ‘You read that and you will find some answers.’ I read that newspaper three times and was touched emotionally by all of the articles.”

As you partner with us, we’re sending Inside Journal to more and more prisons, inviting men and women to know the freedom Christ offers behind bars. To learn more, or to order bulk shipments for a prison where you minister as a volunteer, visit: http://www.prisonfellowship.org/resources/prison-ministry/inside-journal-archives/.

Dignity Is Key to Prison Reform

By Steve Rempe | Posted October 9, 2014

When seeking to improve the effectiveness of our current prison systems here in the United States, it is important to recognize the humanity of those behind bars.  So says Prison Fellowship President and CEO Jim Liske in a recent op-ed article for the Huffington Post.

“We can help create more success stories—and safer communities—through policies that respect the human dignity of each life,” Liske says, “recognizing that ‘criminals’ are not a monolithic group of monsters. They are people, capable of choosing to change and contribute.”

Respecting that dignity begins at the time of trial.  Liske suggests increasing the use of alternative courts—drug courts, mental health courts, and veterans’ courts—as a way of being cognizant of the needs of those the traditional justice system is ill-equipped to serve

Once in the prison system, Liske proposes a re-emphasis on rehabilitation, as opposed to simply warehousing prisoners before release.  He notes the importance of volunteer organizations (like Prison Fellowship) that provide effective programming at no cost to taxpayers by focusing on the underlying causes of criminal behavior.  He also commends prison officials, like Angola Prison’s Warden Burl Cain, who think outside the box in creating an environment conducive to the transformation of those incarcerated.

Finally, Liske emphasizes the importance of supporting those reentering society from prison.  One key way to provide such support would be through passing the Second Chance Reauthorization Act currently being considered by Congress.  The act would extend partnerships between state and local governments and non-governmental organizations to help provide programs designed to reduce recidivism and give these newly released citizens the opportunities needed to be successful.

“[T]here is no freedom without respect for the dignity of each human being,” Liske concludes.  “It’s time for that respect to be enshrined in the criminal justice system, for all our sakes.”

Prison Fellowship understands the importance recognizing prisoners as human beings, created and loved by God, and capable of being transformed.  And Prison Fellowship volunteers play a great role in helping to bring that transformation to fruition.  To learn how you can be a part of the change taking place in the lives of prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families, visit www.prisonfellowship.org/get-involved.




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