At the National Prayer Breakfast earlier this year, Prison Fellowship® received an extraordinary surprise. During his remarks, President Trump praised Prison Fellowship, recalled the legacy of our founder, Charles "Chuck" Colson, and highlighted the importance of restorative criminal justice reform like the FIRST STEP Act.
It was an amazing "full circle" moment: Although he fell from grace decades ago for his role within the Nixon White House, Chuck's name has become synonymous with redemption and service to others—and President Trump declared it for everyone to hear.
James Ackerman, President and CEO of Prison Fellowship
Shortly after hearing the president's remarks, I was talking with a Prison Fellowship supporter whose company, CKS Packaging in Georgia, has a robust second-chance hiring program. CKS believes that by extending second chances, the company is doing God's work, and in the process has gained many loyal, hard-working employees. One of their first second-chance hires became the quality manager at a CKS plant.
I loved hearing that. Whenever I learn about someone receiving a second chance to fulfill their God-given potential, it feels like an echo of the Easter message.
WE BELIEVE IN SECOND CHANCES
As an organization, we have redemption in our DNA. Prison Fellowship is the direct product of Chuck Colson's second chance. That's why the movement to unlock opportunities for those who have paid their debt to society is an important part of Prison Fellowship's work across the country.
This month is the third annual Second Chance™ Month. Spearheaded by Prison Fellowship, it's a nationwide celebration of the dignity and potential of people as image-bearers of their Creator, and who—despite the past—can make significant contributions to their communities.
We kicked off Second Chance Month with an event at the Watergate Hotel. This was an intentional choice. Just as the Resurrection transformed the cross from a symbol of shame to a symbol of victory, we are proud to draw attention to the way God has redeemed our founder's past, and, through your faithful support, has used it to show countless prisoners and their families the way to salvation.
CELEBRATING EASTER WITH THE CHURCH BEHIND BARS
As Chuck did every year, Prison Fellowship plans to share the Gospel with hundreds of incarcerated men and women in several states this Easter—now just a couple days away. I am eager to attend the Hope Events in southern California, where international speaker, best-selling author, and Bible teacher Kay Warren; Christian rap artist Nehemiah; the Temika Moore Band, singer Richard Andrew, actor Scott William Winters, and others will help present the good news of Christ's death and resurrection, which alone has the power to change the lives of those behind bars.
It's always a joy to watch people take that first step on their journey with Jesus, but Easter this year will be a little bittersweet. Easter Sunday will coincide with the seventh anniversary of Chuck Colson's passing. But I trust he would be pleased to see how the Gospel continues to be shared and lives continue to be transformed.
During this Easter season, I am so thankful to be part of this ongoing ministry of second chances. With the help of friends across the country, Prison Fellowship continues to share the real, living hope of the Gospel with people who long for its power to make them new.
James J. Ackerman is the president and chief executive officer of Prison Fellowship.
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