Hope is our birthright. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that God has “set eternity in the human heart.” We all have an innate sense that we were made for more than this present world. And this truth produces hope! By definition, hope looks ahead. You can see it in the eyes of little children—we’re born knowing there is good on the horizon.
That hope persists for some longer than for others.
This fallen world has a way of dimming it. We grapple with our mistakes and with the pain of being sinned against. Circumstances like poverty, abuse, and addiction can overshadow eager expectation for the future. And when situations like these have burdened a family for generations, it can be hard to see a way forward.
Sometimes bad choices lead to prison, where many men and women abandon hope altogether.
The very architecture and culture of prison extinguish hope. Isolation abounds. There is little beauty, and there are few choices. Often, relationships are frayed beyond repair, the door to a career seems forever closed, and surviving day to day is the only goal. Life—literally and figuratively—looks bleak.
The same is true for families with an incarcerated loved one. Prison seems like yet another dead end—one with no escape route. Knowing that addiction and violence can be part of prison life, relatives worry that their loved one is being driven into even deeper darkness. Kids miss the familiar voice of that person who was supposed to always be there.
But we don’t think prison has to be the end of hope’s story. In fact, at Prison Fellowship® we know that prison can be the very place hope springs to life.
Why? First, because of the Gospel. When the mercy of God touches sinful people, they are redeemed. And the outworking of that redemption is hope. When someone understands that they are known and loved by God, that their sins have been forgiven and that they are free to walk a new way—suddenly, there is a reason to live.
The future is no longer bleak but beautiful.
This verse is a favorite of many believers: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11)
Restoring hope is part of God’s master plan for His people, and we love being a part of it. As we speak hope to men and women behind bars, we paint a picture of new possibilities—and we show the pathway to get there. We cast a vision for being different, appealing that isolation, conflict, and self-hatred don’t have to characterize their lives. We walk beside them, modeling a new way to live. And we teach the principles and practices that will help them reflect God’s glory in the world.
The result: Addictions are broken. Relationships are repaired. As Paul writes in Romans 5:5, hope does not disappoint us.
Fathers and mothers see their wayward children walking in freedom and purpose. Spouses find healing for their marriages. And children experience the return of the stability that comes from having a parent invested in their wellbeing—even if that parent is still behind bars.
Another way we seek to restore hope is by helping to open doors for men and women who have repaid their debt to society. Despite radically changing while incarcerated—and continuing to become ever better versions of themselves as they reengage their communities—former prisoners often return to a world of barriers.
At Prison Fellowship, we seek to remove these hurdles so that returning citizens can see their hopes realized: to earn an honest living, to support their families and communities, to live into their unique callings every day.
Even when hope is gone, in Christ, it is not unrecoverable. As a ministry, we proclaim, model, and advocate for men and women who want to start over and walk a new path.
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