When former prisoners go back behind bars, it's usually because something went wrong, and they fell back into the snare of crime and incarceration. It's a common story, since two out of three prisoners will be arrested again within three years.
But in Tyler, Texas, this fall, some former prisoners went back behind bars for a good cause. They joined Prison Fellowship® and CityFest, an outreach of the Luis Palau Association, to bring a life-changing message—that in Christ, even the loneliest prison cell can be a place of freedom.
A new, bright future is possible.
'He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the LORD
and put their trust in him.'
Prison Fellowship puts on Hope Events, evangelistic programs with inspiring speakers, musical guests, and other attractions, at prisons all over the country.
At this Hope EventTM with CityFest, StuntDudes, a team of professional athletes who put on live action sports shows, demonstrated their skills with ramps and BMX bikes. Prisoners came out on the yard to cheer on their feats—and also to enjoy the music of Richard Andrew, a formerly incarcerated singer/songwriter.
CITYFEST AND HOPE EVENTS BRING THE GOSPEL
"I sing about the struggle and the victory at the other end of the struggle," says Richard, who gave his life to Christ in a prison chapel in 1993. "I don't pull any punches, and I think that's why [my songs] work so well in the prison. I'm singing their song. I've been a drug addict, a criminal, a convict. I've come out on the other side because of my relationship with Jesus."
Andrew Palau of CityFest delivered the Gospel message to the many prisoners who had gathered in the yard to listen. A "sea" of people came forward for prayer, Richard recalls.
"It was really powerful. You could just feel the Spirit there on the yard," adds Jennifer Lowrey, Prison Fellowship's national director of Hope Events.
The impact of the Gospel message was deepened because the crowd could see its effects on the stage in front of them. In addition to Richard Andrew, three other people who spoke—Prison Fellowship staff members Chad Prince, John Henry, and Willie Culpeper—all testified to how the love of God has brought them out of the snare of crime and incarceration.
THE WORD BEARS FRUIT
The day after the CityFest event, a woman contacted Richard on social media. She wanted to share her joy and gratitude. Her father, a prisoner, had attended the Hope Event and given his life to Christ. "He is so excited about Jesus," she shared in her message. "It made me so happy!"
Richard, too, is grateful to be part of sharing the message of hope that changed his own life in prison. And he's optimistic that the work begun with Prison Fellowship and CityFest on that Texas prison yard will bear fruit for years to come.
"Most prisoners have lived through some stuff, like addiction, broken homes, or impoverished communities," he says. "When you take those people and they've given their lives to Jesus, now you've got some warriors working for the Kingdom of God. Prison Fellowship is out there preparing these warriors. I feel honored to partner with you guys."
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