Recently I spoke at length with a wonderful man named Brandon, who will be released this summer. We discussed how the Prison Fellowship Academy™ in Houston has impacted him. I was astonished to hear him share. Brandon expressed a real appreciation for all that the program provided him, from counselor instruction to volunteer instruction and, of course, love shown by all.
FINDING CHRIST AMONG THE LOST
Each quarter he would reflect on how much new information he received, and how much he began to see things differently. This change came through the many demanding classes required by the program, such as the New Leaf Project.
For Brandon, the New Leaf Project was a difficult class to attend, yet it was the most impactful.
"The New Leaf Project forced us to see the harm we had done to others," Brandon explained. "As inmates, we spend years behind bars developing more and more anger over being controlled and locked up, and feeling like victims. Suddenly, we were seeing the big picture of how our offenses injured others [because of the New Leaf Project]."
THE NEW LEAF PROJECT
What compelled Brandon to change? He says it was the chance to hear raw stories of how crime impacts many people—not just the victim and the criminal.
"We heard presentations … reminding us of the damage one bad decision [can cause] our loved ones and others," he shared. "The real clencher was the impact of the teens who were invited in to share how their lives were destroyed. They spoke from the heart about the challenging life they lived with the absence of [their parents]. These testimonies touched us to the point [that] many brothers were in tears."
Although Brandon has no children of his own, hearing these teenagers speak was powerful. "I [would] never want to cause my children such pain. It was absolutely heart-wrenching and life-changing."
ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY … AND FORGIVENESS
The men read their heartfelt letters in the presence of their family members and volunteers. As was true in Jesus' day, the men are encouraged and supported by family, peers, community to sustain a walk that is pleasing to the Lord.
Ron Zifer serves as the program manager for Prison Fellowship Academy in Texas.