Prison Fellowship

The Power of the Local Church

By Jim Liske | Posted June 13, 2013

Jim_Liske_2_200x300At a recent conference in England I had the opportunity to hear Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek. Bill has often said that “the local church is the hope of the world.” I couldn’t agree more! As the Body of Christ, who is the Light of the World, the local church is God’s Plan A to heal the woundedness of individuals, families, and the culture.

As part of the community, a local church has a unique sensitivity to the needs of its culture and its neighbors. It knows who is hurting and why. A local church speaks the language of the people it wants to help and introduce to Jesus. That’s why Prison Fellowship is committed to equipping local churches to receive men and women when they come out of prison, and also to minister to prisoners’ families through programs like Angel Tree Christmas, Angel Tree Camping, and Angel Tree Mentoring.

We also partner with local churches when they just happen to be behind bars. As men and women come to know Jesus and be discipled in their Christian faith, they become “indigenous missionaries” in their jails and prisons. Their witness is credible, because they know exactly how prisoners think and feel. They speak the unique language of the prison environment. That’s what’s so exciting to me about Prisoners to Pastors, a rigorous, seminar-level curriculum being offered to prisoners in an ever-increasing number of facilities. We are equipping the local church behind the walls – an incredibly powerful missionary force – to more effectively preach the Gospel and make disciples behind bars!

The Road Is Paved: A Florida Field Report

By Raeanne Hance | Posted June 11, 2013

TUMI_Graduation_squareSouth Bay, Fla.—A lot had happened in the last 24 months. There had been miracles, hard times, challenges, and growth. As 36 students in the Prisoners to Pastors program – along with 14 men completing the faith-based pre-release program – prepared to graduate, they sat under a handmade banner that read, “The road is paved.”

Why that message? Because every time the participants would complain about an unexpected setback, I would tell them, “Gentlemen, you are the first group of prisoners in the entire state of Florida to undertake the Prisoners to Pastors program. We are paving the road as we drive on it.”

Prisoners to Pastors (also known as The Urban Ministry Institute), is made possible by a partnership with World Impact, an urban missions organization. This rigorous, seminary-level curriculum prepares students to become Christian leaders in a correctional context and after they return to the community. But this Prisoners to Pastors class faced extra challenges on top of the daunting hours of reading, writing, memorization, and assigned ministry projects.

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A Vision to Live By

By Jim Liske | Posted June 6, 2013

Jim Liske_200x300Where there is no vision, the people perish.”– Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)

Vision is destiny. Our feet will generally take us where our eyes are focused, so if we want to get anywhere, we had better have a clear picture of where we’re headed.

At Prison Fellowship Ministries we imagine what it would be like if we could walk into every correctional facility in America, and we could see the pervasive influence of Spirit-filled inmates changing the prison culture as they grew in faith. What if they were using their time productively, preparing to rejoin the Church outside the walls as servant-leaders?

We imagine what it would be like if we saw godly policies emerging from legislatures all across our land, because lawmakers had God’s laws written foremost on their hearts. We imagine how things would be different if the Church’s compassionate desire to advocate for the poorest and more vulnerable brought about true, restorative justice for all.

We see the restorative power of the Gospel building the Church inside of America’s prisons and jails and connecting it to churches on the outside prepared to further the restoration of those coming home.

And we imagine doing it all with you.

Does this vision resonate with you? Come walk with us in the direction God is leading. Get engaged. Give back your time. Give back your resources. Support prisoners with your faithful prayers. There’s a future full of miracles in store.

“Prisoners to Pastors” Program Expands to Texas

By Prison Fellowship | Posted June 6, 2013

Prison Fellowship is pleased to announce the expansion of its “Prisoners to Pastors” program to the Cristina Melton Crain Prison in Gatesville, Texas.  Forty inmates will be participating in the program, which provides seminary-level education and training in prisons.

Facilitated by Prison Fellowship volunteers and in cooperation with The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI) of World Impact, the Prisoners to Pastors program offers former lawbreakers the chance to become leaders of the Church behind bars and after they return to the community.

The program at the Cristina Melton Crain Prison is the first of its kind in Texas.  Prison Fellowship currently operates other Prison to Pastors programs in California, Colorado, Michigan, and Florida, and hopes to expand to more facilities in the future.

To learn more about the Prisoners to Pastors program, click here.

Released to Serve

By Carolyn Kincaid | Posted June 5, 2013

PEO-Aaron Cosar_wifeBack when he was an impulsive young man, Aaron got high on LSD and alcohol and shot a man to death. It was only when he woke up the next day that he realized what he had done.

Faced with a life sentence, Aaron could have descended into despair and hopelessness. But God called Aaron at his lowest point and began to prepare him to serve. Thanks to the faithful prayers and gifts of friends intent on reaching prisoners with the Gospel, Prison Fellowship® was able to minister to Aaron.

A seed of faith was planted in Aaron’s heart when he accepted Christ in a cold prison cell. God transformed him into a model prisoner, enrolling in Prison Fellowship Bible studies and mentoring his fellow inmates.

The governor of Oklahoma commuted his life sentence to 65 years, but it still looked like Aaron would be in prison until he was an old man. However, God had other plans.

On November 17, 2010, Aaron walked out of prison into the arms of his loving wife, Justeen. He had served nearly 25 years by the time he was released. But Aaron’s heart had found freedom long before that.
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The Road to Restoration

By Jim Liske | Posted May 30, 2013

Jim_Liske_2_200x300Restoration is the theme of God’s Word and the purpose of His activity throughout history.

The early chapters of Genesis tell us how a loving God built an environment where His image-bearers, the crown of His creation, could dwell in perfect harmony with Him, with one another, and with all created things. God gave Adam and Eve dominion over all the earth for their enjoyment and for the creation’s benefit.

But our spiritual parents fell, and the peace and wholeness God intended to permeate the created order was replaced with misery and decay.

The Old and New Testaments tell how God, in unrelenting love and mercy, prepared the creation to be restored to its intended state through His Son, who first died and rose again, and one day will return to complete that restoration in the New Heaven and Earth.

In this place and time between the original garden and the new creation, those who follow Jesus have a privileged calling. Empowered by the Spirit, you and I are co-workers in the restoration of all creation to a right relationship with God.

When you help us minister to prisoners and their families, you are standing on the frontlines of restoration with us! Behind bars and in communities torn by crime, the effects of separation from God are terribly real, but His glory only shines out the brighter when He brings healing and hope.

We are working our way to the end of the story of God’s people. God, beginning with Jesus, has asserted His will to restore all creation. Will you join Him with us?

Frontlines: Meet Edwin Wolff

By Prison Fellowship | Posted May 29, 2013

Light shines most brightly in the darkest places. That’s what Edwin Wolff learned during his incarceration, when his copy of God’s Word sustained him. Hear more from Jim Liske about his remarkable story of transformation and hope.

 

Being a Father behind Bars

By Steve Rempe | Posted May 23, 2013

Being a father is hard work.  Today’s dads have to be part counselor, part confidant, part disciplinarian, part encourager, part teacher, and part advocate.  A good dad has to be aware of all the things happening in his kids’ lives, and be available when those kids have questions, concerns, or fears.

Now, imagine trying to do all those things from prison.

The National Fatherhood Initiative’s InsideOut Dads program seeks to provide fathers behind bars with the tools and encouragement to be good parents to their kids while serving their sentences, and helps prepare them for a time when they can be dads more directly upon their release.

“The goal is to get everybody to communicate with their kids, to relearn some parenting skills you never knew you had,” says Dennis Fries, a facilitator of the InsideOut Dads program at the Richmond (VA) City Jail.

The National Fatherhood Initiative was founded in 1994 to address “the most consequential social problem of our time: widespread father absence in the lives of our nation’s children.”  With the growing number of fathers who are separated from their children due to incarceration, programs like InsideOut Dads can play a key role in reversing that problem and the societal issues that are exacerbated by the absence of an adult male role model in families.

“Being there for my kids is better than any gift,” says William Jones, a father of four who is preparing for release.  Jones plans to enter an addiction treatment program after leaving prison to make sure that gift continues once he leaves the prison walls.

To learn more about InsideOut Dads, click here, or visit the National Fatherhood Initiative website.

Preparing for a Second Chance

By Steve Rempe | Posted May 17, 2013

It is an ongoing problem for inmates being released from prison.  As soon as they leave prison life behind, they find themselves in a difficult job market, often with a limited skill set, and with a resumé with a noticeable hole in the timeline.  Add to that a criminal record, and the cards are definitely stacked against these individuals finding meaningful employment.

A new program being offered to Virginia inmates through the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia is seeking to improve the odds for at least some of these inmates.  At the Dillwyn Correctional Center, a medium-security prison for men in central Virginia, 13 inmates are learning the fundamentals of entrepreneurship.

Kirk Smith, an inmate preparing for release in the coming months, is learning skills to advance his dream – a custom painting business.

“I’m still scared,” says Smith about his business’ launch. “At times, I was pulling my hair out. But now I have more confidence. Now I believe I can start this business. I know I would have failed miserably without this class.”

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Standing in the Breach

By Jim Liske | Posted May 16, 2013

Jim_Liske_2_200x300At a graduation ceremony for students completing Prison Fellowship’s four-year Prisoners to Pastors program, a tearful dad confessed to me, “I thought my son would never complete anything but a prison sentence!”

We were at South Bay Correctional Institution in Florida. Thirty-six students – who had completed hundreds of hours of rigorous theological study – were dressed up in gowns and tassels. They were like little kids in their excitement. Most of them had never walked in any kind of graduation ceremony in their lives, so this was a life-changing moment of hope and accomplishment! These graduates were being commissioned to change their prison and their communities for Jesus.

One of the graduating students is particularly close to my heart. His name is Derrick, and he’s got decades of prison time still to serve. But he doesn’t mind. He’s on fire. He sees that prison as his “Jerusalem,” the mission field where he can love people and spread the Gospel. Derrick’s adult daughter Christina was there to celebrate with him. She is a phenomenal, accomplished young woman. For many years, Angel Tree helped Derrick maintain his relationship with Christina when he couldn’t be with her physically.

At the graduation ceremony, Derrick and Christina weren’t allowed to hug each other, but the officers let me put an arm around each of them, so they could embrace each other through me. That’s exactly what you do when support Prison Fellowship and Angel Tree. You stand in the breach. God uses you to facilitate moments of connection, joy, and healing that would otherwise not exist.




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