Prison Fellowship

Influential Warden on Curbing Recidivism

By Alyson R. Quinn | Posted January 29, 2013

Warden_Cain_300x200Burl Cain, a member of Prison Fellowship’s board of directors and the long-serving warden of Angola Prison, was recently interviewed by the Acton Institute for an article appearing on its website. Since Cain took over Angola in 1995, it’s gone from being “the bloodiest prison in America” to one of the most revolutionary. What was the key? According to Cain, inmate prayer is at the heart of Angola’s transformation.

“I think Angola proved a lot of things that even Scripture says that does not need proving, like II Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by my name would turn their face to Me, I will heal their land.” And that’s what happened here, because this prison’s culture has changed, not because I’m a smart warden or because of the authority here. It changed solely because these inmates were praying to God to heal their land, and He did,” Cain told the Acton Institute.

And how does that change get exported to the culture? When prisoners who have been transformed by Christ are released back into society, says Cain.

(more…)

Introducing Frontlines

By Prison Fellowship | Posted January 29, 2013

Frontlines is a video series that brings you close to the work of Prison Fellowship through the lens of Prison Fellowship Ministries CEO Jim Liske’s encounters with the inmates and families. In this inaugural video, Jim reflects on meeting with Jonathan, a 15-year-old boy longing for a different future.

 

“Even the Guards Cried”

By Alyson R. Quinn | Posted January 23, 2013

Angela Patton is the director of Camp Diva, an organization that helps empower young women. In a TED Talk, she explains how her organization arranged a father-daughter dance for 16 men and their 18 daughters – inside the county jail! The dance gave the men a rare opportunity to show their daughters how much they cared by dancing with them, pulling out their chairs for a meal, and giving them their undivided attention. The scene was so touching, Patton says, that “even the guards cried.”

 

 

Young women with a father behind bars desperately need to understand that they matter to their dads, because a girl’s relationship with her father helps determine how she will view herself, and how she will think she deserves to be treated by other men in her life. Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program also helps connects absent fathers with their daughters, demonstrating that in spite of the mistakes fathers might have made, their daughters are still loved, valued, and full of unlimited potential.

One Envelope, One Stamp, One Pencil

By Jim Liske | Posted January 18, 2013

photo-jimRecently I received a letter from two women in their early 20s. They were inmates at Rikers Island in New York, and they had written on the front and back of the same sheet, because together, they were able to come up with just one envelope, one stamp, one pencil, and one piece of paper. They wrote out of poverty. They had come to the end of their material resources. They had come to the end of themselves. But they asked for something that could make that rich beyond their wildest dreams – Bibles.

These young women are not unusual. Up to a dozen inmates will write on a single piece of paper, pleading for a Bible, access to Bible studies, and prayer. They know where the power to change comes from, and thanks to the support of friends like you, they know they can write to Prison Fellowship for support.

But what if there was no one to whom they could write? Would Prison Fellowship be missed? It’s a valid question we must all ask ourselves: Are we spending our days on work of such vital importance that others would notice if we stopped?

I believe that with your support, God is calling us to redouble our ministry to prisoners and their families in 2013. Without this work, too many would have nowhere to turn. As one of the young women at Rikers wrote, “I decided that I would like to be closer to God and learn how to be more like Jesus Christ … I would like to … get a free Bible because I don’t have access to one. Me and the inmate on the other side of this paper are anxious for a prompt response.”

Images of Faith

By Carolyn Kincaid | Posted January 18, 2013

Art Show 1 Many prisoners who have found new life through Christ express their deepest convictions through a paint brush. Yet their work largely goes unseen by the outside world – until the cellblock sketches fell into the hands of the prison ministry team at Shadow Mountain Community Church in California.

Over the years, this large church nestled in the hills outside San Diego received countless unsolicited submissions from prisoners who have come to know Jesus through Shadow Mountain’s robust in-prison ministry and year-round Angel Tree outreach.

Instead of burying these drawings in a box, Tom Heyer, Shadow Mountain’s prison ministry director, saw a creative opportunity to remember the forgotten behind bars. This past November, he organized the church’s first annual Festival of Art.

Art Show 2Along with the prisoners’ artwork, the Festival of Art displayed submissions from parolees, ex-prisoners, Angel Tree children, prisoners’ families, and prison ministry volunteers – showcasing throughout the church a variety of images inspired by the artists’ faith.

“We had many favorable responses from those who viewed it,” Tom says. He already has plans to host another art festival this year. He adds, “We look forward to how God is going to expand this area of ministry.”

Shining Star: Christy Streicher

By Prison Fellowship | Posted January 17, 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.

Christy_250pxAs a full-time official court reporter in Edwardsville, Illinois, Christy Streicher is used to capturing every word uttered in a courtroom. But while she typed away recording all the details of each proceeding, it was those dramatic stories and the thought of the defendants’ children that captured her heart. After all, these were the innocent victims of crime.

Her compassion for children developed decades earlier when she was about 10 years old. During a Christmas Eve midnight service, she felt compassion for all the children who would not be opening presents the following day. One day, she vowed, “I will help them.”

Twenty years ago, Christy fulfilled that vow. She learned of Angel Tree through a Bible study she attended at the courthouse where she worked and then approached her pastor to get Angel Tree started in her church.

Christy has volunteered for the past 20 years in seven Illinois counties.  Angel Tree program specialist Laura Nelson says that Christy is a woman whose heart is turned toward the Lord and who has a special affinity for children. As she works in the court system, every day she sees what incarceration can do to families—especially children. “As one of my area coordinators, I know that every single child she is responsible for will be served by a local church,” says Laura.

Lance Armstrong, Lies, and Chuck Colson

By Alan Eason | Posted January 17, 2013

The following post originally appeared on the BreakPoint Blog, and is reproduced here with permission.

There is something about lying that hits a real nerve. People who read the Bible are quick to point out that telling lies is the first trace of evil in the Scriptures. Satan flat-out lied to Adam and Eve about what God had told them.

Deception and lies shake us. They are often hard to ferret out, and, even when confessed, it is hard for a person to recover a sense of purpose in life, once branded as a liar.

Lance_Armstrong_250pxThe Lance Armstrong saga is not only about cheating and being involved with others who cheated in sport, but also about an extensive pattern of denial and lies. Now the story is about to break wide open, as Armstrong’s confession is reported to be on the taped interview with Oprah Winfrey set to air this week.

The media is already turning to the topic of redemption. It is interesting that several articles have referenced the redemption of Chuck Colson after Watergate.

In Politico, Patrick Gavin quotes former Livestrong Chief Development Officer Doug Kingsriter as saying, “Armstrong should learn from Chuck Colson.” Kingsriter goes on to recount how Colson admitted, “You know, I did wrong” and then, after prison, “started an organization that would help bring the gospel to people who were in prison. And he became more known for that work than he did for the Watergate scandal.”

Even more noteworthy is a Wall Street Journal editorial that advises, “As the cancer survivor turned champion cyclist tries to salvage what he can of his reputation . . . he’d be better off following the example of the late Chuck Colson.” The editorial goes on to paint a dark picture of the depravity of lying and some of Armstrong’s other egregious sins, including suing a newspaper for half a million for “libel” after it accused him of doping. But it ends with “The ultimate judgment . . . belongs to a higher authority, but in the meantime the Colson example suggests an earthly road back to respectability.”

It seems that the narrative of Chuck’s life and his story of redemption have taken a strong root in our media culture. That’s good news. Our hope is that the meaning of Chuck’s story might continue to unfold in our time, so that more and more can see his Redeemer.

Prisoner Bible Studies Featured in Bible Study Magazine

By Alyson R. Quinn | Posted January 16, 2013

BSM_JanFeb_cover_200pxA January 2013 article by Jessi Strong, written for Bible Study Magazine, examines the unique perspective that incarcerated men and women bring to the study of God’s Word.

Prison Fellowship Ministries CEO Jim Liske told the magazine, “You don’t have to spend time talking to an inmate about how their life is not working out. It’s painfully obvious to them. In the free world, we have appearances to keep up, and there are a lot of ways we can fake it.”

The article explores how inmates frequently approach the Bible with a profound sense of need, but also a history of pain and distrust to overcome.

“Inmates who’ve hit rock bottom usually respond from a place of deep pain: ‘Does God really love me? Is God like my earthly father who beat me, who left my mom? Is God like my earthly father who didn’t care if I ate or not?’” Liske also says in the article.  “These are the basic questions that those who grew up in fairly healthy homes don’t always understand. More people than not have these questions about life—wanting to know, ‘Can God forgive me?’ and ‘Can I forgive myself?’ ”

 

To learn more about how you can get involved by facilitating a prisoner Bible study, or welcoming former inmates to your church, visit www.prisonfellowship.org/get-involved. To access the full text of the article, subscribe by visiting www.biblestudymagazine.com.

Saving the Scraps

By Alyson R. Quinn | Posted January 15, 2013

IMG_0192 “We have seamstresses sitting with nothing to do,” a Florida Department of Corrections official told Raeanne Hance, the regional executive director for Prison Fellowship® in the Southeast.

To save money as 2012 wound to a close, the FDOC had prepared to close seven prisons and four work camps. Inmates at the affected facilities were sitting idly after their regular programming ground to a halt for weeks before the planned consolidation.

But Raeanne had an inspired idea: There were inmate woodworkers and seamstresses who needed something to do, and there were also many Angel Tree® children in Florida who needed a sign of their incarcerated parents’ love at Christmas. Could the inmates create gifts to be distributed to children by Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree partners?

(more…)

A Firm Resolve

By Jim Liske | Posted January 11, 2013

photo-jimIt’s a New Year, the time for making resolutions that we never intend to keep! That’s not quite true, of course. It’s good for us to work toward goals and dreams for the future, but let’s face it – it’s hard to keep our resolutions; if we’d all lost all the weight that’d we’d committed to every New Year, none of us would even exist anymore!

The most common New Year’s resolutions are about physical fitness, organization, and money management. Those are all fine, but what if we made 2013 about taking steps in a new direction spiritually? What if your goal in 2013 were to encounter Jesus face-to-face?

In Matthew 25, Jesus says that when you visit the prisoner, you are in fact visiting Him. Prison Fellowship wants to help you meet God as you minister to inmates and their families in 2013.

I’m not necessarily talking about something huge. I’m talking about taking a few minutes of your time to go worship by serving the “least of these.” Just go to www.prisonfellowship.org/get-involved to learn how you can help.

If God is calling you into a deeper level of engagement with Prison Fellowship this year, let the Spirit lead you into the process of volunteering. Learn about the local opportunities. Go through some of our training. Let it be an act of worship – not necessarily an act of doing something, but being someone significant in someone else’s life. My bet is, you’ll experience worship beyond anything you’ve ever experienced. You’ll have the same experience I’ve had. By volunteering, you don’t just go spend a few hours – you’ll be forever changed through your encounter with Jesus!




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