Jim Liske

When Disaster Strikes

By Jim Liske | Posted June 26, 2015

Liske_154The world has watched events in Charleston, South Carolina, with awe—and for good reason. In the wake of yet another mass shooting, some of the victims’ loved ones have faced the shooter with forgiveness, prayer, and a heartfelt call to repentance. They have modeled the Gospel at the worst time in their lives.

The slain leaders of Emanuel AME Church must have been doing something very right before their lives were cut short. Long before disaster struck, they were laying the groundwork of a solid identity that hatred and violence would not be able to destroy. They were storing up tools in their community’s tool box, so they would be prepared to react in the face of the unthinkable.

From his reported statements, it seems that the shooter meant to sow division and discord. In Charleston, he failed; love is overcoming hatred. But elsewhere, the battle is raging. All over the country, prisons are empty of true community and full of division. Men and women behind bars are isolated, disconnected from their loved ones, and separated from God. They are in deep need of repentance, forgiveness, and redemption.

With your help, Prison Fellowship is working every day to bring the Gospel to prisoners and build up the community of Christians behind prison walls. Men and women who love Jesus are becoming powerful leaders for the Kingdom in their facilities, reducing violence and modeling His peace. To learn how, visit www.prisonfellowship.org.

Good News About Prodigal Fathers

By Jim Liske | Posted June 21, 2015

The following post originally appeared on the Huffington Post website, and appears here with permission.

Father’s Day passes largely unmarked behind prison bars. For the men and women I’ve met, whose fathers were all too often dead, locked up, angry, violent, emotionally distant, or just plain gone, the third Sunday in June is nothing to celebrate.

Jim Liske_200x300More and more of us can relate. Today one in three American children grows up in a home without their biological father, and the national trend toward fatherlessness among all racial groups is an underlying factor in everything from gang violence to childhood obesity. Fatherlessness is part of the well-rehearsed script in media coverage of urban crime, entrenched poverty, and achievement gaps.

With its well-researched, widespread social consequences, fatherlessness is a plague on all our houses–not just the ones without good dads. But there’s some surprisingly good news. If good fathers matter so much–if they can raise their children’s test scores, keep them out of jail, help them graduate high school, protect them from poverty, and help them avoid drug abuse and premature sexual activity–then, just by supporting and empowering fathers, we can put a dent in some of our most intractable social problems.


In Their Father’s Arms

By Jim Liske | Posted June 18, 2015

Liske_154This spring I spent a gorgeous Saturday with dads, moms, and kids who were having fun playing games and running around outside. For lunch, we dined on chili dogs piled high with onions and cheese.

I can’t tell you how great it was to watch these fathers with their children. You see, we were in a prison yard, and these parents and children don’t normally get to spend a day playing together.

We were celebrating a wonderful group of Christian fathers who have given their whole selves to Jesus, thanks to discipleship programs in prison. These intensive, 18-month programs train participants to become the men God designed them to be. Graduates are better husbands, fathers, sons, brothers, and leaders!

That day, laughter filled the prison yard as families rejoiced in simple togetherness. For a few hours, the harsh realities of incarceration faded away. I saw a father and his 6-foot-3 teenage son strategize about pre-season football workouts. Dad will be home in a few months—in time for his son’s senior football season, and both are overjoyed. Another father carried his little girl in one arm and his little boy in the other, because at their tender ages, what they needed most was for Dad to hold them in the safety of his embrace.

And I thought, Thank You, Lord, that these men can go home and finish well as husbands and fathers.

Even from behind razor wire, a dad can receive forgiveness and healing from his heavenly Father and be restored to his children. This Father’s Day, thank you for helping to give children the Father and the dads they have needed all along!

Seeds of Salvation

By Jim Liske | Posted June 15, 2015

Liske_154Recently I met a remarkable dad. When his adopted son started stealing, he made a heartbreaking decision: he took him down to the police station, hoping that facing the consequences of his actions would turn the boy around.

Sadly, the boy wasn’t ready to change—at least not yet. He went in and out of juvenile facilities. He became a habitual offender. He rammed a stolen car through a police roadblock, drawing officers’ fire and emerging miraculously unharmed. He broke his father’s heart over and over again. Finally, he earned a prison sentence of 27 years. His dad came faithfully to visit him all those years, planting seeds of love that he hoped would bear fruit someday.

In many prisons, the son encountered Prison Fellowship programs. He sat on the edges of Bible studies and heard stories about Jesus. He knew something was different, but like many prisoners, he still wasn’t ready to give his life to God. The volunteers came faithfully to these prisons anyway, scattering seeds of the Gospel and praying transformation would grow.

The son was released from prison four years ago. Two years ago, he made a decision to follow Jesus and was baptized. After decades of faithfulness and prayer, the seeds sown by his father and by many volunteers have sprouted and borne fruit that was worth the wait.

Important, heart-level change often follows years of patient investment. That’s why I’m so grateful for friends like you. When you join us for the long haul, faithfully giving of the time, talents, and treasure God has entrusted to you, you are planting seeds of salvation that might bear fruit tomorrow or in many years. You allow Prison Fellowship to abide with the broken—no matter how long it takes

Learning to Pray

By Steve Rempe | Posted June 11, 2015

On May 31, Prison Fellowship President and CEO Jim Liske returned to speak to his former congregation, Ridge Point Community Church in Holland, Michigan, on the challenges of prayer.  Reflecting on the concept of restorative justice and the idea that all people are created in the image of God, Liske recalls attending an event commemorating the 50th anniversary of the civil rights marches in Montgomery, Alabama, where he was seated between two women who were veterans of those marches.

As teenagers, these women were present in Montgomery, praying for a day when they would not be treated as second-class citizens.  Now, 50 years later, these grandmothers were able to see the daughters of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. and Alabama Governor George Wallace embrace in a display of unity that was an answer of many years of prayer and supplication.

If you have trouble viewing the above video, click here.

“Understand that prayer is a two-way dialog that is meant to change you, not to change God,” Liske says in his message.  “That in that process you will receive answers, like these two grandmas did, that will actually shake your world. And while you receive answers, you will become more and more holy, and more and more capable of praying within the will of God so you see more and more answers revealed before your eyes.

“Scripture says that in prayer we move the cosmos—we affect the direction of what God is doing in our lives, and you communicate with the high and holy. I pray that you want to learn to pray, because in that you communicate with God almighty.”

Prayer is at the root of everything that Prison Fellowship does.  From major reforms in the justice system to the transformation of the individual prisoner, nothing is achieved without God’s people taking these requests before the throne of God.  To be a part of God’s continuing work in the lives of prisoners, their families, and the criminal justice system, join our prayer team.

Thankful for Prison

By Jim Liske | Posted June 8, 2015

Liske_154Recently I received a letter from a mother. She’s a college professor with a stable marriage. She and her husband raised their children in a loving, God-fearing environment. Her son wasn’t “supposed” to go to prison, and when he did, her world turned upside down.

Somewhere along the road, this mother’s son made a wrong turn. He grew distant from God and made a choice with terrible consequences. Now he’s behind bars, and his mother wrote to tell me she is thankful.

Why? This mother is thankful because prison gave her son the wake-up call he needed, and he has given his life back to Jesus. She is thankful because Prison Fellowship has been there for him, surrounding him with encouragement and hope, giving him a purpose and vision for the future. She is thankful because, through their circumstances, she and her husband have been inspired to undertake the rewarding calling of jail ministry themselves.

And she is thankful because, as she writes, “You and I both know Jesus is the only answer” for those in prison—and for those who love them.

I am also thankful—for partners like you. When you support Prison Fellowship through your prayers, when you volunteer behind bars or in the community, and when you share God’s gifts to help those affected by crime and incarceration, you give many other people a reason to be thankful, too

The Unlikely Graduates

By Jim Liske | Posted June 1, 2015

Liske_154Last week I gave the commencement address for a class of excited graduates in caps and gowns. As I looked out over their bright faces, and as I took in their proud families, I silently thanked God.

The graduates in front of me were prisoners, the latest men to complete a seminary-level program in Christian leadership. Many of them had never graduated from anything in their lives, but now, in the presence of their loved ones, they were celebrating a major accomplishment. They had completed more than 2,000 hours of rigorous classroom study, reading, writing, and class projects. Many times they must have been tempted to turn back, but they persevered.

The warden of the prison was there, too. For him, the graduation was also a reason to celebrate. He told me that men involved in Prison Fellowship programming act as peacemakers within the prison. They resolve conflicts without violence, they keep correctional officers safer, and they make the overall prison environment better for everyone.

The graduates weren’t just excited about what they had just accomplished—they couldn’t wait to apply it to the future. Whether they are looking forward to going home or will spend many more years in prison, they can’t wait to be agents of God’s Kingdom, used by Him to bring His peace and restoration.

Serving Those Who Served

By Steve Rempe | Posted May 25, 2015

By the most recent estimates, an estimated 140,000 military veterans are incarcerated in state and federal prisons in the United States.  While that number is down from previous reports, it still represents a sizable number of men and women who have served our nation as members of the armed services.

On a recent visit to the InnerChange Freedom Initiative Unit in Texas, Prison Fellowship President and CEO Jim Liske met with Anthony, a Marine who is in the last year of his prison sentence.  In the video below, Liske recounts running the Marine Corps Marathon in 2014 and praying specifically for Anthony during mile three of the race—one of 26 incarcerated soldiers Liske prayed for over the course of the marathon.

There are many more soldiers like Anthony who are preparing to return to society outside prison walls. Through in-prison programs like the InnerChange Freedom Initiative, Prison Fellowship seeks to equip these men and women once again for a life of service—this time by serving their families, their churches, and their communities.

If you would like to find out more about how you can help prisoners like Anthony, please visit our get involved pages.

Gone but Not Forgotten

By Jim Liske | Posted May 22, 2015

Liske_154When it was first celebrated in the 1860s, Memorial Day was known as Decoration Day. Americans from the North and South would pause to place floral decorations on the graves of those who had lost their lives in the Civil War. May was chosen because flowers would be in bloom throughout the United States. As the years went by, and Americans fought in many more wars, Decoration Day was renamed Memorial Day. It was broadened to recognize all those who, though killed in the service of their country, deserve to never be forgotten.

When I talk to prisoners, they sometimes tell me they feel like, though living, they have already died. Their cells can feel as dark and constricting as a tomb, they have little or no contact with the outside world, and their friends and relatives often cut off ties. Unlike a soldier who falls in battle, a prisoner is both gone and forgotten.

Without a doubt, those who have committed crimes need to be held accountable for their actions. However, contrary to the dominant message in our culture, Scripture challenges us not to forget those behind bars. All of us, whether free or incarcerated, would be imprisoned by our sins without Jesus, and that’s why God calls us to shed the light of His love in the darkest places.

This Memorial Day, we join all Americans in honoring those who fought and died for our country. But we also remember those behind bars whom Jesus died to save. By His grace, they can be brought up from the “grave,” transformed and restored to lead new lives.

Leading the Way for Reform

By Jim Liske | Posted May 18, 2015

Liske_154More than 40 years ago, Prison Fellowship’s founder, Chuck Colson, was sitting in a federal prison cell. From the heights of power as special counsel to the president, he had fallen to the depths of shame and isolation. I wonder if, sitting in that cell, he ever dreamed of what would be happening in Washington, D.C. decades later.

This week is the third meeting of the Charles Colson Task Force on Federal Corrections, which, in the spirit of Chuck’s tireless work for criminal justice reform, has been convened to address system-wide overcrowding and other problems in the federal prison system. The Task Force, on which I am honored to serve, will meet throughout 2015 to conduct its work and present its findings and recommendations to Congress, the Department of Justice, and the president. In a beautiful picture of God’s redemptive grace, Chuck will again, in a sense, be advising the government at the highest level.

No life is beyond the reach of God’s love and restoration, and every man and woman behind bars has been made in His image. That’s why, through the Task Force and the ongoing work of Justice Fellowship, Prison Fellowship is committed to advocating for criminal justice reform that respects human dignity, protects communities, and promotes accountability.

To learn more, follow the Task Force on Twitter at #ColsonTaskForce and read this article by John Stonestreet, who had the opportunity to interview the Task Force’s chairman, former Rep. J.C. Watts. Finally, if you’d like to support this important work in prayer, please pray for me and the other members of the Task Force, and all the men and women who will be affected by the outcomes!

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