Prison Fellowship

Building Spiritual Foundations

By Steve Rempe | Posted January 9, 2013

cary_white_book_225x300Cary White, one of the first graduates of the Prisoners to Pastors program (a joint effort between Prison Fellowship and World Impact), has released a new book for Christians considering entering full-time ministry.

The book, Spiritual Foundations of the Christian Worker: The Life of Timothy Curriculum (Volume 1), is intended as a workbook for individual or group study.  “This workbook is not an easy task to complete,” says Cary, “and it is my opinion that anyone who takes the task upon themselves will be transformed and convicted to walk a life of purity and holiness that is fitting of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Prisoners to Pastors is a four-year seminary-level training program in Christian leadership.  It offers former lawbreakers the chance to become leaders of the Church behind bars and after they return to the community.

A World magazine article from last April tells more about Cary and his path into and out of prison.  To hear Cary’s story in his own words, check out the video of his address to an audience at the Ronald Reagan Library in 2011.

Shining Star: Gary Lane

By Prison Fellowship | Posted January 4, 2013

Each year, Prison Fellowship recognizes volunteers and employees who have made a difference in the lives of prisoners and their families by presenting them with the Shining Star Award.  In the coming weeks, the blog will highlight some of the 2012 Shining Star recipients and their work.

Gary Lane (center) with Prison Fellowship President Garland Hunt (left) and Prison Fellowship Ministries CEO Jim Liske (right).

Gary Lane (center) with Prison Fellowship President Garland Hunt (left) and Prison Fellowship Ministries CEO Jim Liske (right).

For 13 years, Gary Lane has been a weekly volunteer at the Carol S. Vance Unit near Houston, home to Prison Fellowship’s InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI), a faith-based reentry program for prisoners that begins 18-24 months before their release date and continues for a year once they are released.  Clocking in over 4,000 volunteer hours, Gary conducts Search for Significance and Heart of the Problem classes each week and leads seminars at many other state facilities.  And all of this is after an 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift at his job.

“Gary’s email is ‘Holy Smoke,’ says IFI Texas Program Manager Ron Zifer. “Though I don’t know exactly what that signifies, I would say that Gary’s on fire for the Lord and when the smoke clears, he is standing tall, reaching out to the men to guide them.  At the IFI Vance and Darrington units, when men see him coming in the parking lot, they flock to greet him.”

As a former inmate, Gary understands prisoners as he teaches inside prisons and serves as a mentor.  Ron says that men can see Christ through Gary as he shares his personal testimony. Gary can see through attitudes of denial and calls men to personal accountability in an unoffensive yet firm way.

Gary also operates a Christian halfway house called Fertile Ground Transitional House for recently released male inmates.  “He is well-respected in the community, a man of integrity with a heart for the hopeless,” says Ron.

Not One Should Perish

By Garland Hunt | Posted December 21, 2012

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? … In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.”

– Matthew 18:10-12, 14

Why would the shepherd leave the 99 to go after the one the one that went astray? Realistically, that doesn’t make sense! Why would he risk his investment in the 99? Because the sheep represents his livelihood and his future – he’d risk everything to retrieve it.

I want you to notice something that I recently saw for the first time: All of this is talking about children! Jesus calls a little child into the midst of his status-conscious disciples and tells them the parable of the lost sheep. He makes it clear the Father doesn’t want one child to perish.

In the last week before Christmas, Prison Fellowship continues the fight to reach the children with a gift and the Gospel delivered on behalf of their incarcerated parent. If Jesus cares so much for every child, if the Father places so much value on their lives, how can we rest until we reach every single one of them? Isn’t it worth it to do whatever we can to find these kids and minister to their needs this Christmas and all year long? Reach a hurting child with the love of Christ at www.angeltree.org.

The Agony of No Pain

By Steve Rempe | Posted December 18, 2012

A recently published article tells the story of Steven Pete.  Steven and his brother were both born with a rare genetic disorder called congenital analgesia.  While Steven has the sense of touch, he is unable to experience anything that could be considered pain.

It is tempting to be envious of Steven.  Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a life free from hurt?  A life where you wouldn’t have to hesitate to try something that might result in discomfort, or worse?  Such a person wouldn’t have to fear the consequences of their actions, right?

(more…)

“Christmas Carnival” Brightens Season for Inmates’ Children

By Alyson R. Quinn | Posted December 12, 2012

Forget Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, and Vixen. Forget Rudolph and the sleigh. These days, Santa Claus rides a Harley-Davidson – or at least that’s how he arrived at the 2012 Angel Tree Christmas party put on by Bethany First Church of the Nazarene.

This large Nazarene church in Bethany, Okla., is one of more than 7,800 groups that have joined forces to reach children of the incarcerated this Christmas – but their Angel Tree party is unique. Prison Fellowship President Garland Hunt, who gave a talk encouraging inmates’ children and their caregivers, called it “one of the most incredible Angel Tree events I’ve witnessed.”

The Christmas party was coordinated by long-time Angel Tree volunteer Judy Mills and her husband, Larry, who have personally mentored many prisoners’ children for years. But it also brought together the talents and enthusiasm of many people throughout their congregation and community. A drum line from a local high school played. A rap artist spun rhymes with an uplifting Christian message. A “power team” performed feats of strength, wow-ing children by crushing soda cans and ripping up telephone books with their bare hands. Basketball players from nearby Southern Nazarene University delivered bulging sacks of gifts to children eagerly awaiting a symbol of love from their incarcerated parents. And, yes, Santa revved the engine of his motorcycle.

“It was like an indoor carnival,” says Garland.

(more…)

Saturday School

By Jim Liske | Posted December 10, 2012

Saturday morning I was in an inner-city elementary school in Washington, D.C., where a friend of my daughter is a teacher. What I saw and heard there broke my heart. Ninety percent of those kids lived in the projects, and despite the earnest efforts of teachers, many of them are reading far below grade level.

I sat down with the school principal and asked her how many of the kids had a parent in prison.

“All of them,” she said.

Doubting my own ears, I asked her to repeat herself, but she confirmed what I had heard. Practically every child in the school has an incarcerated mom or dad!

Incarceration tears apart families from every socioeconomic background, and Angel Tree® is about fostering connections between all these children, their parents, and the Lord. But there’s no denying that incarceration disproportionately affects the poor – to whom Jesus calls us to go! When we serve an inmate and his or her impoverished child, we are responding to two important commands in God’s Word: to “remember the prisoner” and to serve the poor.

Angel Tree is a fantastic opportunity to do that. For a prisoner’s child who lives in poverty, the world may seem dark and confined, but remember: a light shines the brightest in the darkest room! When that child receives a gift, the Gospel, and a message of love from a volunteer on behalf of the parent, the darkness is lifted.

Christmas is just days away now, but there’s still time to be a part of the 2012 Angel Tree Christmas campaign. I invite you to visit www.angeltree.org to give or to learn more about the part you have to play.

Raised Up to Minister

By Prison Fellowship | Posted December 6, 2012

Eric will tell you it’s not his parents’ fault that he’s in prison. He started using drugs as a teenager and then, before long, he was selling them. When a drug deal went bad, he killed a would-be customer.

“I wasn’t raised like that,” he says. “My mom and dad, they tried their hardest. Everything I’ve done was my decision.”

But, at age 17, Eric found himself convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Eric’s girlfriend was pregnant when he was locked up. Their daughter, Alexandria, would be born five months later.

Eric was an atheist when he went to prison and remained one for his first 9 1/2 years behind bars – until a fellow inmate reached out to him with the Gospel. His heart was also touched by the generosity of people who gave and made it possible for him to build a relationship with his young daughter, Alexandria, through Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree® Christmas program. As soon as he learned about Angel Tree, Eric signed up his daughter so she could receive Christmas presents in his name.

“She loves the presents,” says Eric. “The local church — they go all-out. It makes me feel good that people in the free world take their time to go out of their way to do something like that!”

When Eric was transferred to a different prison, he faltered in his faith. But Prison Fellowship had an active presence in his new facility. When a Christian inmate saw Eric trying to turn his life around, he invited him to join the Bible-based ministry program run by Prison Fellowship staff and volunteers. Eric enrolled right away and began to grow strong in his faith once again.

Eric comes up for parole in 2014, and he hopes to become the father he knows Alexandria needs. He also hopes to someday return to prisons to creatively preach the Word of God through a softball ministry. “I can reach the young generation because I can intertwine softball with the Word.” Eric says that he believes his mission is to influence young people so they do not make the same mistakes he did.

“I want to reach every prison in the state of Alabama,” says Eric, “because I feel that God can take me from where I was to where I’m at now, and He can do that with anyone.”

Eric’s vision is big and bold – but so is His God.

 

GO DEEPER: Help more parents like Eric re-establish a relationship with their hurting children at www.angeltree.org!

The Moving Walkway Test

By Jim Liske | Posted December 5, 2012

Rushing through an airport to catch a recent flight, I was able to take advantage of a moving walkway that sped up my journey – and then another. I was about five steps onto the second one when I realized it wasn’t moving. It looked just like the one about 30 feet behind me: same metal, moving floor sections, same Plexiglas sides, same thick rubber handrail, but it was standing still. It gave me no aid at all!

I had an odd feeling of being deceived.

I couldn’t help but wonder if that is the feeling that people have when they buy into a program or an idea, only to find out that the supposed benefits were too good to be true. What they put their faith and hope in did not help them in the long run. Looked good. Didn’t work.

There are lots of good programs out there doing good things, especially this time of year. But too often those good things are like broken moving walkways that take us nowhere of eternal significance.

At Prison Fellowship, we’re determined to give inmates and their families the things they need to have a better life now– like simple Christmas gifts and back-to-school supplies for inmates’ kids, or fair sentencing laws and access to rehabilitative programming for inmates doing time. But we can’t stop there. To truly “work,” programs must bring the broken close to the Healer, Jesus Christ. Only He can set prisoners free from sin and self. Only He can make families whole. Only He can give life that’s eternal. That’s why all our ministry behind bars and in the community has the Gospel at the center – and always will.

Reaching Out to Inmates in California

By Steve Rempe | Posted November 30, 2012

On November 3, Prison Fellowship’s Operation Starting Line (OSL), in cooperation with the Training Center in San Diego, offered inmates at the Calipatria State Prison in California the chance to enjoy a time of entertainment in the prison yard.  Skateboarding and bicycle exhibitions, musical performances, and arm wrestling competitions set the stage for the most important part of the afternoon – a presentation of the Gospel and testimonies from former inmates displaying the transformative power of the Holy Spirit.

Jon Lowrey, Prison Fellowship’s field director for southern California, was among the speakers who addressed the prisoners.  Team Soil provided a display of BMX skills and stunts, even allowing some of  the inmates a chance to be a part of the entertainment.

To learn more about Operation Starting Line and the many collaborating ministries that help to make events such as the one at Calipatria State Prison possible, click here.  To find out how you can be a part of future events such as this, please visit http://www.prisonfellowship.org/get-involved/.

Would You Jump?

By Jim Liske | Posted November 28, 2012

When fear and insecurity fill our hearts, we respond with selfish indifference to the needs of our neighbors. But when faith rules our lives, when we have wrestled with God and found Him true, we become secure in His ability to care for us, and we cease to doubt and fear.

As CEO of Prison Fellowship Ministries, it’s a big part of my job to invite people to partner with us in ministry, whether that means volunteering to go behind bars and lead a Bible study, rearranging the family budget to make a financial gift, or committing to regular prayer for inmates and their families. I get a thrill every time our partners make the leap from fear to faith, trusting God to meet their needs when they make sacrifices for the “least of these.”

When we have journeyed with God and have experienced His power, grace, and forgiveness for ourselves, our love for our neighbors will pour out of what we have been given, knowing God will replenish it continually. Love that comes from this depth of faith has the power of God. It transforms lives. It penetrates defenses. This love is not just a reflexive act of charity. It is the expression of a heart that is secure in the knowledge of God’s love. When we have felt God’s love and know He is capable in all things, we come alongside others with a sense of well-being that brings them the same security and hope.

Every day, Prison Fellowship volunteers and partners are making the leap from fear to faith, responding to God’s love by meeting the needs of inmates and their families. Will you jump with us?




Prison Fellowship is a 501(c)(3) organization   •   44180 Riverside Parkway, Lansdowne, VA 20176   •   (877) 478-0100   •   Privacy Policy   •   Copyright © 2014