Prison Fellowship

Broken and Beautiful

By Jim Liske | Posted January 11, 2014

Jim_Liske_2_200x300New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on self-improvement. Lots of us are going to give up television or take on a new exercise program. Most resolutions are all about chipping away at some aspect of our imperfection.

There’s nothing wrong with improvement. God doesn’t call us to a life of the status quo. But often in our rush to cover up or get past the broken places in our lives, we miss out on the opportunity for God’s grace to shine beautifully in and through our weakness.

I was reminded of this powerfully on a recent trip to Angola, a large prison in Louisiana that was once one of the bloodiest, most dangerous correctional facilities in America. There I met several inmate pastors who are extraordinary leaders of the Church behind the walls. Some of those I talked to were in prison for very serious crimes, and they have no hope of ever walking down the street again as free men.

To most people, a life sentence would be an insurmountable setback, but these prisoners are truly “in chains for Christ.” Regardless of the original crimes that brought them to Angola, they now live and breathe to help their fellow prisoners know and follow Jesus. God has taken the most broken part of their stories and made it into a beautiful testimony of His power to redeem, restore, and reconcile.

By God’s grace, let’s work together to bring out more of the beauty that’s possible in situations of great brokenness. Learn how at www.prisonfellowship.org.

The Angel Tree Sleigh Ride Wrap-Up

By AT Sleigh Ride | Posted January 8, 2014

In the days leading up to Christmas, three Prison Fellowship interns hit the road and traveled down to Tampa in our SUV-style sleigh to help churches distribute Angel Tree gifts to children on behalf of their incarcerated parents. You can read how our journey began here and then check out our adventures in Florida. And here’s how we wrapped up the trip:

We spent the Friday before Christmas at the mall — not shopping, but distributing gift cards to Angel Tree families that hadn’t been sponsored by a local church this Christmas.

The reason we came to Florida in the first place was because there are more Angel Tree children in the Tampa area than the local participating churches and organizations are able to serve. Prison Fellowship is hoping to change this trend in future years by raising awareness of the Angel Tree program and the needs of prisoners’ children in Florida.

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A Voice for the Voiceless

By Allison Liske-Boevers | Posted December 30, 2013

Most people would love to have a few extra hours in their day. But for Janet Kissling, time isn’t a constraint; it’s a tool to do the Lord’s work.

Janet is a mother of nine, and she homeschools the four children still in elementary school. She also tends to the family farm. Although her life overflows with activity, she has found time to pursue another passion: advocacy for prison reform.

Janet’s first interaction with the prison system was through her nephew, Kevin, a struggling 13-year-old whose mental health issues threatened his own well-being, as well as those around him. After a run-in with the law, Kevin was charged as an adult and found himself in a program for the mentally ill, where he received minimal care for his condition. Within two years, Kevin was transferred to an adult prison. There, with minimal educational programs, he spent most of his time getting in trouble, often leading to solitary confinement. He continued to receive little counseling or medication for his mental problems.

Janet visited her nephew a few times a month to encourage him. When she began talking with him about his daily routine, she says, “It didn’t take long for me to become horrified at what I saw happening within the prison.” Janet learned that prisoners like Kevin were either not being properly medicated for their mental illnesses and were not being put through helpful rehabilitation programs. Without proper care, she realized that these men were bound to return to society still mentally ill.

Janet’s dissatisfaction with the treatment of prisoners remained with her, and she found herself wanting to make others aware. She had no idea that God would use her experience with her nephew to light a fire in her heart for prison reform. However, with a clear understanding that prisoners need Jesus to completely rehabilitate, Janet’s desire to share this truth led her to speak out. Janet’s call to be a “voice for the voiceless” as she calls it, led her to Capitol Hill in Lansing, Mich.

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Georgetown Professor Ponders “Incarceration Nation”

By Rebekah L. Stratton | Posted December 23, 2013

“If the incarcerated population of the United States constituted a nation-state, what kind of country would it be?”

In an article for The Oregonian, current Georgetown University law professor and previous State Department senior adviser, Rosa Brooks, provides a unique perspective on America’s prison system. Brooks creates a conceptual “Incarceration Nation” to shine a light on the shortcomings of America’s prison system. She acknowledges that the U.S. won’t be sending 165,000 prisoners off to another country like the British Empire did with Australia, but looking at the U.S. prison population as if it were its own country provides some interesting insight into the trends and finances associated with how the prison system is run.

Brooks starts by noting that Incarceration Nation, with its 2.4 million residents, would have a population growth rate more than doubling India’s and a population density slightly higher than India’s.

In Incarceration Nation, there would be 12 men to every one woman, and about 40 percent of the population would be people of African decent, 40 percent Caucasian, and 20 Hispanic. If Incarceration Nation were to exist on the globe according to its racial makeup, it would be somewhere near Brazil.

She mentions the “nasty habit of involuntarily transporting people hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles away from their home communities, making it extraordinarily difficult for residents to maintain ties with their families.” While moving prisoners to another country would of course be more extreme, a study in New York found that 70 percent of prisoners are incarcerated more than 100 miles from where their families live, and often times, these prisons are in rural areas where transportation is not available for visitation.

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“Because They Were From Me”

By Rebekah L. Stratton | Posted December 20, 2013

With Christmas almost here, Prison Fellowship and churches around the country are in the midst of throwing Angel Tree parties and delivering gifts and the Gospel to prisoners’ children. An encouraging letter from Kimberly, whose family was blessed by Angel Tree eight times while she was in prison, came to us just a few weeks ago. Her touching words are a powerful reminder of the children that need to feel the love of their parents and of their Heavenly Father this Christmas.

Kimberly writes:

… my kids constantly raved about the gifts they received on my behalf from you! Since I have been out, I have heard several comments about favorite things they have kept because they were from me. A dress and robe that no longer fits, cars that no longer work, etc. The gifts have obviously impacted my children tremendously! … those gifts meant and mean so much to my two beautiful children. …

I just wanted to thank you. The children of these parents in prison are innocent. They are just victims of their parents’ mistakes. Thank God He  proves faithful! There were many days and nights I cried out to Jesus about these innocent children, and He proved faithful to them. They are both saved! Thank you and I pray for this ministry …

There’s still time to get involved in Angel Tree this Christmas! Click here to see how you can make an impact in these few days leading up to Christmas.

Oh What Fun It Is to Ride in an Angel Tree Christmas Sleigh!

By AT Sleigh Ride | Posted December 20, 2013

An Angel tree child receives a Christmas gift at the end of an event hosted at Liberty Temple Full Gospel Church of Orlando on Thursday, December 19, 2013. (Photo by Brittney Julian)

The sleigh has been going full speed ahead to Tampa; the last day has been pretty exhilarating. We got our rental car at the Amtrak station when we arrived in Atlanta. The employee was wearing a very chipper bow tie, so I was pretty confident we were off to a great start. He, like almost everyone we talk to, was a little confused about what we are doing. But I really like when people ask questions; explaining Angel Tree never gets old.

We made a quick stop for breakfast and then drove straight to Tampa. It was a long ride. There was lots of singing and we had fun watching the temperature climb as we drove. The Florida welcome center was a gem. They have free orange juice and grapefruit juice, which I’m still raving about. It was all quite welcoming. We finally got to Tampa, and after the attempted sleep on the train and a long drive, we fell into bed in about a minute.

In the morning we made contact with Roland. He is in charge of the Angel Tree area we are in, and we wanted to help him any way we could. Roland told us he had found out about an Angel Tree party in Orlando last minute and asked if we could go. We were thrilled to have another event to attend! He also said he was busy calling caregivers about Angel Tree gifts for the children, so we volunteered to help. Our trip suddenly became chaotic, but we were so happy we had the chance to go to the Orlando party and give Roland a hand.

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For Our Kids

By Jim Liske | Posted December 16, 2013

Jim_Liske_2_200x300When our kids were growing up, Christmas was a joyful, relaxing time for our family. Our son and daughter would look forward to the Christmas break with increasing excitement as the days got shorter and darker.

But imagine, instead, a child who dreads Christmas. For this little boy or girl, Christmas is about the empty place at the dinner table, the shamed silence when their friends talk about the gifts they received, and the sleepless nights spent wondering whether their mom or dad is safe in the frightening place they’ve seen portrayed on TV. Christmas is a reminder of all they lost when their parent went to prison.

Now imagine that child’s smile when an Angel Tree® volunteer arrives with a gift from their parent behind bars – a gift with a tag that says, “I love you so much. Merry Christmas!” Imagine that smile widening when the volunteer has a chance to share that the gift is just a small symbol of the love the Heavenly Father has for this broken-hearted child, demonstrated forever in the gift of Jesus at the first Christmas. This boy or girl now has something to remind them they are loved no matter what!

Friend, this little boy or girl isn’t far away. She’s across town. He’s in your child’s class. In a very real sense, these are our kids.

In the middle of this busy season, will you stop with me and pray for children who don’t have the one thing they want most this Christmas – the parent who can’t come home? And will you join me in asking God what He would have us do to bring the real hope of Christmas to our kids? Learn what you can do at www.angeltree.org.

Frontlines: Coming Home a Leader

By Prison Fellowship | Posted December 16, 2013

Change is never easy, but it’s the difference between despair and hope for a prisoner’s family. Hear about a young man whose involvement in a Prison Fellowship program made him determined to come home as the father his children need!

Helping the Invisible Kingdom Become Visible

By Steve Rempe | Posted December 13, 2013

Prison Fellowship President and CEO Jim Liske recently appeared on “First Person with Wayne Shepherd,” a nationally syndicated radio program, to talk about Chuck Colson, Prison Fellowship and Angel Tree.

During the interview, Jim told host Wayne Shepherd about his upbringing on the family farm.  “I learned everything I learned about stewardship growing up on the farm and caring for God’s creation,” he said.  “… When I look at Angel Tree, we’re preparing the soil by taking the Gospel to the inmate.  We’re cultivating it by giving that inmate the opportunity to sign their kids up.  We’re planting that seed with the gift and with the Gospel, and we pray that we continue to see the harvest of those souls, after God does His thing with the miracle of the Gospel.  For me personally, I get the joy of being involved in the process of helping the invisible kingdom of our Heavenly Father become visible.”

It’s not too late to get involved in Angel Tree this Christmas.  To learn what you can do to bring the Gospel to the families of inmates, call 1-800-55-ANGEL, or visit http://www.angeltree.org/christmas.

Breaking the Cycle of Crime

By Deborah Beddoe | Posted December 11, 2013
Anthony

Anthony Walker

Prisoners have a 40 percent chance of returning to prison when they are released. But, in Anthony’s state, 85 percent of the inmates who go through Prison Fellowship’s “pre-release” discipleship and training program never return to prison.

Anthony Walker was denied parole eight times. After more than two decades behind bars, he didn’t think he would ever get out of prison.

Anthony had become a Christian, but his prison — the largest in Texas — was violent, and prisoners had to be tough. It just wasn’t a place to learn a new way to live. He’d seen a lot in prison. And it had taken its toll …

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