Many years ago, brothers Rickie and Jerry arrived at an intake prison handcuffed together. They were both facing life sentences.
While in county jail, Rickie had become a follower of Jesus and believed that one day he would lead his brother to the Lord, too. As they spent time in different prisons over the years, Rickie lived a changed life and wrote to Jerry every week, but Jerry continued running from God and getting into trouble.
Fifteen years later, Jerry finally gave his heart to Christ. And nearly a decade after that, the brothers were transferred to Prison Fellowship’s faith-based unit at the Carol Vance correctional facility in Texas. There, they were re-united and had the opportunity to live among a community of believers in the InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI), Prison Fellowship’s 18-month reentry program for prisoners.
Based on the life and teachings of Jesus, IFI stresses personal responsibility, the value of education and hard work, and care for other people and their property. Prisoners continue to participate in IFI after they are released from prison, too. Nine to 12 months after their release, if they’ve continued to meet with their mentors, stay employed, and keep in good standing with parole, these men become graduates of the IFI program.
This past weekend was a time of great celebration at IFI. Eighteen formerly incarcerated men returned to the Carol Vance unit to graduate before their families and other program participants.
Among these graduates was Rickie. He’s now a janitor for a church and has recently leased an apartment and bought his own car. Rickie is sharing the Gospel with his family. And Jerry is anticipating his release scheduled for later this year!
God is using IFI to make a difference. These 18 graduates have demonstrated that they embraced life change inspired by the Holy Spirit, and they continue to live it out today. In spite of challenging economic times and the reluctance of many to hire former prisoners, these men went out and landed jobs. Time and time again, employers are calling us, wanting to hire more men like those graduates we have sent out in years past. They are a testimony to society that Prison Fellowship’s volunteers and supporters are catalysts for change.
To learn more about IFI, please visit www.prisonfellowship.org.