Ron Zifer serves as the program manager for Prison Fellowship’s InnerChange Freedom Initiative in Texas.
Time and again I’m asked, “Where does the real change come for the men in the InnerChange Freedom Initiative program?” Many want to know if there is a specific class or program really changes these men. Perhaps it is the KAIROS Weekends our members attend, or maybe the Alpha class?
Those of us who work with IFI recognize it is not us or the contributions that bring about change, but that it is God who in His timing transforms hearts and lives through the work of the Holy Spirit. Yes, we are instruments God uses for His purposes, but ultimately, it is God intervening in the life of each individual and providing them with His vision for the future. When that light switch will come on, none of us knows in advance.
What we understand and share with the men is that it isn’t about a memorizing Bible verses or learning deep, spiritual truths. While such things are essential parts of one’s Christian development, the root of meaningful change is developing and cultivating a personal relationship with the Lord. It requires us seeking Him, listening for His voice, and welcoming Him when He calls.
There is a tendency for us to think that certain course work or programming is the key; that programs such as IFI are like car washes—participants simply drive through and come out cleansed. For the men here it begins with being sick and tired of being sick and tired … that they are willing to change, and open to God’s call on their lives. Then—by listening, praying, reading, and discussing with others—an interest in God can be cultivated and nurtured. Ultimately, these men come to cherish their time with and the lessons learned about Him through IFI.
As God continues to do His good work in the lives of men behind bars, they come to see that he has a plan for their lives, and are able to, with God’s leading, construct a path that will allow them to move forward with that plan. The light switch comes on and the darkness is dispersed.