Prison Fellowship

A Cycle of Promises

By Carolyn Kincaid | Posted November 6, 2013

The Angel Tree program sounded too good to be true to Lisa. Would people in the free world really give Christmas presents to her son and daughter while she was incarcerated?

She signed Coleby and Cortnie up for Angel Tree with a small hope that her children would receive a gift that let them know she still loved them so much. She lost her children … her freedom … what more did she have to lose?

Months passed and she forgot about the promise that Angel Tree made to her. Christmas finally came and she called home to hear her children’s excited voices.

Coleby answered the phone. “Mom, I love you forever and ever!” he said. “Thanks for getting me what I wanted!”

“What do you mean, Coleby?” Lisa couldn’t believe it; Angel Tree really did keep its promise and delivered gifts and the Gospel to her precious children.

It was then and there that Lisa made a vow. When she completed her 10-year sentence, she would serve God and give back to Angel Tree.

Just like Angel Tree kept its promise, Lisa kept hers!

The church she attended when she was released asked for Angel Tree volunteers and Lisa’s hand shot up. “You don’t need to explain,” she told them. “I once was one of those incarcerated parents. I’ll do anything.”

Now, six years later, Lisa is her church’s coordinator for Angel Tree. Every Christmas she delivers God’s love to prisoners’ families in her area and helps to heal the relationships between incarcerated parents and their children!

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Redeeming the Time

By Jim Liske | Posted November 5, 2013

Jim_Liske_2_200x300Daniel is enrolled in the Prisoners to Pastors program (also known as The Urban Ministry Institute) at his prison. That means he is a committed, engaged follower of Jesus. He spends hours every week in the classroom, going through rigorous, seminary-level classes. On his own time, he’s reading theology textbooks, and he’s thinking creatively about how to reach his fellow inmates for Jesus.

The single most transformative moment Daniel has experienced in prison, though, hasn’t been a classroom lecture or a homework assignment. Through a program called One Day with God, Daniel’s children and others were able to come into the prison for a day and spend some real, quality time with their fathers – an unbelievable privilege for a prisoner and his family.

As Daniel laughed and talked with his little ones, it hit him: How he does his time, the sort of man he becomes while he is incarcerated, will forever shape his children’s future. He glimpsed what’s at risk if he doesn’t come home redeemed and restored.

Some men who graduate from Prisoners to Pastors will go on to be church leaders, but that’s not Daniel’s calling. He knows his calling is to be a father. He’s studying every chance he gets so that when he gets home, he’ll be prepared to be a leader for Christ within those four walls, and a man that his children can be proud to call “Dad.”

It matters what we do with the time we have. Even as you look to ‘redeem the time’ in your own circumstances, you can help people like Daniel reach their full potential in Jesus, too. Sound good? Learn how at www.prisonfellowship.org.

Seeing Prison from the Other Side

By Steve Rempe | Posted November 5, 2013

If there is someone who knows the criminal justice system – from both ends – it is Bernard Kerik.  A one-time beat cop in New York City’s 14th Division, Kerik rose through the ranks to serve on Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s security detail in the early 1990s.  From there, he was appointed as commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction, where he was credited for modernizing outdated facilities like Riker’s Island and reducing in-prison violence.

Kerik_Giuliani_250px

Bernard Kerik (far right) appears with New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in a press conference on the one-year anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks of 2001. (Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons)

Based on his success running New York City’s prisons, Kerik was appointed by Mayor Giuliani as city police commissioner in 2000, and became one of the most decorated commissioners in city history.  He obtained national prominence in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001, becoming a regular fixture at post 9/11 press conferences and as an analyst on numerous news outlets.  In 2004, he was nominated by President Bush to head the Department of Homeland Security.  Kerik was poised to become a major political player on the national stage.

And then things started to turn sour.

A number of scandals, both personal and professional, began to plague the former commissioner.  The hiring of an undocumented alien as a housekeeper forced Kerik to remove his name from consideration for the Homeland Security post, and allegations of misappropriation of funds began to surface.  In 2009, Kerik was convicted of tax fraud and lying under oath, and was sentenced to four years in a minimum-security prison in Maryland.

On a recent television appearance on the Today show, a recently released Bernard Kerik discussed his time behind bars, and the lessons learned there.  The one main takeaway from the former corrections commissioner’s years in prison?  That the system is deeply flawed, and sets up inmates for failure.

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The Hearts Behind the Program

By Rebekah L. Stratton | Posted October 30, 2013

Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program connects families of prisoners with local churches. At Christmastime, church members deliver gifts and a presentation of the Gospel to prisoner’s children, and Prison Fellowship’s hope is that these children and their families will be enveloped into the church’s community through a year-round relationship.

The Angel Tree program works because God provides volunteers with hearts for helping children with an incarcerated parent. Sometimes finding these kids who need to be served has less to do with the structured programs and just more to do with a volunteer’s ability to see a need and the willingness to reach out when he or she hears God calling.

Marie-Louise Crane, the Angel Tree coordinator for First Presbyterian Church in the small town of Danville, Va., is one of these willing volunteers. Six years ago, a friend passed down the coordinator position to Marie-Louise. Every year, the church holds an Angel Tree Christmas party and also delivers gifts to families that can’t attend the party. This past year, the church was even able to pay to send two Angel Tree kids to camp in Northern Virginia.

But Marie-Louise’s strongest relationship with a prisoner’s child is one that arose naturally from her seeing a need in her community and seeking out ways to help, rather than through a traditional program assignment.

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Woman Buys Groceries for Man Who Stole Her Wallet

By Rebekah L. Stratton | Posted October 29, 2013

A mother of four in Oklahoma recently showed America the difference forgiveness can make in someone’s life.

Jessica Eaves noticed her wallet was missing while shopping at the grocery store. She saw a man in one of the aisles who had it, but before approaching him, she took some time to think about the best way to handle the situation. A Bible verse came to mind:

… from him who takes away your cloak, don’t withhold your coat also. – Luke 6:29

Jessica walked up to the man and told him that Jesus forgives her every day and that she was willing to forgive him, too. She asked for the wallet back and said that she would buy him groceries. The man was ashamed and told her that he had kids and no money. Jessica assured him that she understood and had gone through hard times too. She explained to him that “He has every opportunity to turn his life around and that Jesus loves him unconditionally no matter what he’s going through and no matter what he’s done.”

When Jessica took the man to the register to check out, he began to cry. As Jessica opened up her wallet to pay, she saw that she had $28, exactly enough to cover his groceries. She knew that God had put her in this situation to demonstrate grace and forgiveness to this man. And now everyone who has seen this news story has also witnessed the kind of forgiveness God offers us daily.

Fox News personality Elisabeth Hasselbeck commented on Jessica’s response to the situation, saying that most people would have gotten the police involved, but she instead gave him a second chance.

At Prison Fellowship, we believe in second chances because God has the power to redeem anyone through his grace. As Jesus’ hands and feet, we should be a light in the darkness, sharing this great gift of redemption with those who don’t yet believe it is possible.

Here’s Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s interview with Jessica Eaves:

The Look in Their Eyes

By Shane Morris | Posted October 28, 2013

A version of the following article originally appeared on the BreakPoint website.

 

When a parent is sentenced to prison, he or she is not the only one being punished. The children suffer too. How especially tough it is for them at Christmas time.

The Angel Tree® program, which has been part of Prison fellowship’s work for almost three decades, has served six million children and brought the love of Christ as well as reconciliation to countless homes during the Christmas season. Chuck Colson believed deeply in this work. And this year, your help and participation is wanted more than ever!

But do you know the story of Angel Tree? Have you heard why, as John Stonestreet says, it had the power to “bring a tear to Chuck’s eye”? In a recent BreakPoint This Week program, Stonestreet interviewed Mary Kay Beard, the founder of Angel Tree, whose story has inspired a generation of those ministering to the incarcerated. He also talked with Prison Fellowship President and CEO Jim Liske, who explained why Angel Tree is key to the ongoing mission of equipping the Church to make a difference among “the least of these.”

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An Inside Job

By Jim Liske | Posted October 25, 2013

Jim Liske_200x300“It seems like all the happy people are the ones inside the prison,” observed a member of our board on a recent trip to Michigan correctional facilities, where we attended seminary-level classes with inmate students and later shared a meal in their cafeteria.

This co-laborer in our ministry wasn’t making light of the hardships of incarceration, but he was noticing a remarkable trend. When men and women have the Holy Spirit at work within them, filling them with joy and peace like they’ve never known, their outward circumstances no longer determine their attitudes.

Another prisoner, whose drug addiction landed him in prison, recently wrote to Prison Fellowship in a similar vein, saying, “One day I read a daily reading someone gave me. … I realized He saved me from something and it put me at a standstill. I’m grateful and thankful for some unknown reason. … I’m just happy and I don’t know why.”

To know Christ is to have a freedom and a happiness that nothing in the world can take away. Every day, men and women behind bars are turning from their old lives and running into the arms of their Heavenly Father, who makes them new from the inside out.

I’d like to challenge you to be part of this “inside job,” introducing prisoners to a love and hope that will take root in their hearts and transform their relationships, their prisons, and the communities to which they will return one day. Whether you give your time, your prayers, or your resources, everyone who follows Jesus has a part to play in remembering prisoners and their families. Learn more today at www.prisonfellowship.org.

The Cost(s) of Incarceration

By Steve Rempe | Posted October 24, 2013
Rikers_Island

Rikers Island – one of the most expensive addresses in all of New York City.

Park Avenue.  Soho.  Chelsea.  Midtown.

Rikers Island?

When one thinks of exclusive addresses in New York City, the first thing that likely comes to mind is a penthouse overlooking Central Park, or perhaps an historic brownstone in a trendy part of town.  But when it comes to expensive living quarters, those addresses have nothing on the more spartan surroundings in the middle of the East River.

A recent study performed by the Independent Budget Office in New York City reveals the staggering amount being spent to house inmates our nation’s largest city.  According to the report, the annual cost per inmate in state-run facilities for the year 2012 was an amazing $167,731.  That equates to roughly $460 a day, or nearly $14,000 a month.

Even in a city with a cost of living as high as New York’s, one is most certain to find significantly better accommodations at a mere fraction of the cost.

To look at it another way, for the annual amount spent to house prisoners in New York City, those same prisoners could attend an Ivy League school – for four years.

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The Restoration of Dignity

By Rebekah L. Stratton | Posted October 22, 2013
Ava visits Darrick in prison at Christmastime.

Ava visits Darrick in prison at Christmastime.

A prisoner named Darrick recently wrote a letter to Prison Fellowship to share his Angel Tree experience and his thanks for the difference the program has made in his relationship with his daughter.

Darrick writes:

Shortly before my daughter Ava’s fifth birthday, she asked, “Daddy, I want a princess doll. Will you get me one?” At the time the question crushed my spirit and wrenched my heart. In prison I had no way of obtaining the things she requested. I struggled to come up with an answer that would not disappoint her or offer false hope. I had been in prison for over half her life. Her simple question made me realize I had abandoned her by my incarceration; I placed myself in a situation where I could not do any of the things that a father should be able to do for his child. I had a constant fear that since I could not do for her, she would forget who I was or feel that I did not love her.

When I heard that Angel Tree would allow me to send my daughter a gift for Christmas along with a special note from me I got very excited. I grabbed an application from the chapel and as I walked to my cell I had a spring in my step as I realized I held in my hand a way to put a smile on Ava’s face and show her I was thinking about her. I felt a small measure of my dignity restored as I envisioned her opening a gift from me.

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The Kingdom of Heaven Is Like Leaven

By Alan Terwilleger | Posted October 22, 2013

A version of the following article originally appeared on the website of the Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview. To learn more about the work and the mission of the Colson Center, visit their website at www.colsoncenter.org.


 

“The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”

– Matthew 13:33

I recently had the privilege of traveling with Prison Fellowship CEO Jim Liske to a Midwestern state to meet with Prison Fellowship volunteers, staff, supporters and a number of state officials and legislators.

During the meeting, Jim had an open-mike discussion with two prison wardens about the work of Prison Fellowship in their prisons. While I’ve always known that PF is well-respected among corrections staff, I was blown away by the wardens’ enthusiastic responses.

I can’t quote them, because I wasn’t taking notes, but here goes . . . Both of them loved Prison Fellowship volunteers. They found them to be not only competent, but caring and most of all committed. But what impressed them most was the impact Prison Fellowship’s ministry was having on the prisoners.

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