On paper, my nephew should never have become addicted to drugs. He was a bright young man raised in a wonderful home by godly parents. And yet, he traded it all in for his substance abuse, leaving his heartbroken family behind when he went to prison.
My nephew’s prison sentence changed his life and mine.
In prison, he realized the severity of his situation. He was visited by a Prison Fellowship field director, and he learned to truly receive forgiveness for his past actions, grace for the present, and hope for the future.
My nephew’s addiction and incarceration also led me into prison ministry. I learned firsthand how to empathize with the grieving families shattered by the fallout of a loved one’s bad choices. I discovered what it means for parents of a prisoner to spend the holidays haunted by a child’s absence, and for the first time in years of pastoral ministry, I took to heart Jesus’ calling to visit those in prison.
My nephew has been out of prison for four years now. He is sober, thriving at work, and continuing to grow spiritually. He is a husband and father. He owns his errors and is daily making amends. The week before Thanksgiving, he celebrated his birthday, his wedding anniversary, and the way God used prison to rescue him from his deeper captivity to sin and despair.
My nephew needed to go to prison. While it cost him a few years of physical freedom, it gave him a lifetime to celebrate God’s grace, forgiveness, and restoration. And without his incarceration, I might never have known the tremendous joy of helping to bring men and women home from prison redeemed and renewed for God’s purposes. I hope you’ll discover the same joy with Prison Fellowship this Christmas. To learn how, visit www.prisonfellowship.org.