Ron and Phil sat side-by-side on a platform, sharing about the decades that their life stories have intertwined. The journey began when Ron, then a drug addict desperately seeking cash, shot and killed Phil’s father.
After Ron pulled the trigger, he went to prison. He came to the end of himself and accepted an invitation to a church service inside the walls. He surrendered to Jesus, began recovery from his addiction, and wrote a letter to Phil’s family, asking for forgiveness even though he knew he didn’t deserve it.
While Ron was physically imprisoned, Phil endured a different kind of captivity. He told the crowd that shackles of anger and bitterness bound him, and that, though he was a Christian, he fantasized about a terrible death for Ron. At last, exhausted by his battle with hatred, Phil gave his heavy load to Jesus. He forgave Ron within a week of receiving his letter. Shortly after, the two men met in a prison visiting room and wept together.
Phil became Ron’s mentor and taught him about following Jesus while Ron was still incarcerated. After decades in prison, Ron was released. Phil met him at the gate, and they now journey together as brothers in Jesus. Phil, a pastor, even remarried Ron and his wife, after they had been divorced since early on in Ron’s incarceration.
After they shared their story, I couldn’t wait to hug both men. They are restoration personified, and they have taught me more about the Gospel then 100 sermons.
We don’t just go to prison to teach the Gospel—we also go to learn it. If you’ve never visited with men and women behind bars, I encourage you to learn more about volunteering in prison at www.prisonfellowship.org.