At 72 years old, Dorothy Henry has become a mother to hundreds. She travels to prisons around Texas as a Prison Fellowship® volunteer, sharing the Gospel through her testimony. Her nurturing heart and simple faith remind many of their mother or grandmother.
Dorothy has never been incarcerated, but she's been in plenty of prisons. Her son, John, was incarcerated three times on drug-related offenses.
"John was a good kid," she says. "He didn't get mixed up with the wrong crowd—he just chose it himself."
TEN YEARS OF PRAYER
John spent 11 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. His second sentence started in 1996, and for the next 10 years, Dorothy spent many days and nights on her knees in prayer.
"I had always prayed for my son's salvation. But those 10 years my prayers were more concentrated, more focused," she says.
Prayer wasn't her only way of reaching out to her son. She and her husband, Jerry, often visited and wrote letters to their son. Jerry was in a wheelchair from his battle with multiple sclerosis (MS). It was "hard to leave John after visits because you never knew what was going to happen," Dorothy says.
John Henry with his mother, Dorothy.
But there was one bright spot in Dorothy's life that gave her hope for her son: her husband, previously an unbeliever, had finally come to faith in Christ. "He was like a different person. I knew it had to be God," Dorothy says.
"It was hard to leave John after visits
because you never knew what was going to happen."
THE LOST SON RETURNS
In Luke 15:11, Jesus tells a story about a lost son who demanded his inheritance and left home to see the world. He made poor decisions and lost everything. But then he came to his senses and decided to ask for his father's forgiveness.
During John's third stint in prison, he realized just how lost he was. It was time to ask for his Father's forgiveness. On June 6, 2006, "[John] asked Jesus to come into his heart, to change him, to save him. Jesus did," recalls Dorothy.
The lost son had returned to the faith of his mother and father—but he wouldn't be released for another four years. Still, John was transformed. "His phone calls were different, his letters were different, and my visits with him were different. He studied his Bible every day," says Dorothy.
But by 2007, MS had taken its toll on her husband. Jerry passed away just one year after John was saved. His death was a blow to the family. Dorothy had to bury her husband alone, while John agonized over being stuck in prison and unable to care for his mother.
But Dorothy and John stood firm in their faith. John kept reading his Bible. Dorothy kept praying. And finally, in 2010, John was released.
One of the first things he did was start a prison ministry to tell prisoners how Jesus can save and change them. In 2017, John joined Prison Fellowship as field director in North Texas. "I am so proud of the godly man my son has become," says Dorothy.
'A LITTLE TALK' WITH GOD
About a year ago, the Lord put prison ministry on Dorothy's heart. "I'm ashamed I said 'no' at first," she admits. But God kept pursuing.
"Finally, I told God that we needed to have a little talk," she muses. "I told Him, 'If I’m going to do this, You'll have to give me the words.'"
That's exactly what He did.
Since then, Dorothy has been going into prisons around Texas, sharing the love of Christ with men that remind her of her son. After she shares her testimony, some men come up and thank her, telling her she could be their mother or grandmother. "Some just come up and start crying," she says.
Now Dorothy loves going into prisons. "When I go in, I know God's with us," she says. "I've been treated with respect every time I've been in."
And she has just one complaint: "The only thing that bothers me is they don't let me hug—and I'm a hugger."
'GOD CAN WORK ALL KINDS OF MIRACLES'
Dorothy wants men in prison to consider how their choices affect their families and communities. But more than that, she wants them to know there's a God who loves them—no matter what they've done.
And she has a message for parents of incarcerated children: "Keep visiting. And if you can't, write. Don't give up. Keep praying. God can work all kinds of miracles."
As Dorothy reflects on her life, she says, "I've had more grace and mercy than any one person should be allowed to have." Her life is different now that her son shares her faith. But one thing hasn't changed: she still prays for her son. "My knees are not what they used to be, so now I do my praying sitting—but I still pray for him every day."
Dorothy loves visiting prisons with her son. But now, he gets to go home with her.
"Keep visiting. And if you can't, write. Don't give up.
Keep praying. God can work all kinds of miracles."
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