The power of the Gospel never fails to transform.
As this year comes to an end and we welcome 2024, Prison Fellowship® invites you to be inspired by the following stories of transformation—each celebrating what happens when a surrendered life is placed in the hands of our gracious and merciful God.
1. THE KEYS TO SECOND CHANCES
HOW ROCHELLE FOUND THE KEYS TO HER SECOND CHANCE.
"God was letting me be the steward of a second chance for others."
Rochelle was convicted and jailed for theft of tens of thousands of dollars. Prison was not where she wanted to be, but as time went on, she realized it was where God needed her to be. After her release, she discovered God’s grace in the unexpected second chance He opened up for her. Now she serves to help others find theirs.
2. THE POWER OF ONE VOICE
HE SPENT 23 HOURS A DAY LOCKED IN A CELL. NOW HE KNOWS WHAT TRUE FREEDOM IS.
“That Academy was so influential in who I am today. I knew I had a calling in my life, but I didn’t really know the direction it was going to go. Prison Fellowship gave me the tools I didn’t have before.”
While serving a life sentence in prison, Melvin encountered the living God. He preached the Good News of Jesus to anyone who would listen. And Melvin also participated in the Prison Fellowship Academy®, where he was led through a holistic life transformation. Even if he was never to leave prison, Melvin felt freer than ever before.
3. EDDIE GETS A SECOND CHANCE AT LIFE, LOVE, AND LIBERTY
ONCE ON DEATH ROW, EDDIE GOT A SECOND CHANCE AT LIFE, LOVE, AND LIBERTY.
“I would’ve never imagined, at my age, that this would be possible. Usually at my age they’re looking to replace people with younger guys. Yet God’s provided an amazing opportunity for me to go back into prison and minister to the hearts of men and women.”
Eddie was sent to death row for his crimes. He eventually surrendered his life to Jesus, but it wasn’t until he began corresponding with Prison Fellowship founder Chuck Colson that the weight of his crime grew heavy on him. In an incredible act of obedience to God, Eddie took a step that few others would—and for which God blessed him generously.
4. WHY AN OVERWHELMED MOM DOES A LITTLE BIT MORE
AIMEE CAN’T FORGET THAT COLD IDAHO NIGHT WHEN SHE REALIZED SHE WASN’T ALONE.
“[Volunteers] say they don’t even realize that this world exists. If you’re not part of incarceration, you don’t understand how it affects the families. It’s very eye opening, and it lets them know that the need is out there in the community.”
Aimee discovered the power of community when her husband went to prison, and she began caring for their four sons on her own. That was when Prison Fellowship Angel Tree® arrived in their lives. When she and her boys began attending church, Aimee became the Angel Tree coordinator to help deliver gifts—and hope—to other families with a loved one in prison.
5. A TROUBLEMAKER’S UNDENIABLE TRANSFORMATION
HE WAS ONCE A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH. NOW HE’S A FORCE FOR GOOD.
“By spreading Prison Fellowship, we can continue to give these guys tools to help them become better neighbors.”
To some, the friendship between Jonathan, a resident of North Dakota State Penitentiary, and correctional officer Dan may seem an unlikely one. But Jonathan experienced a radical change in behavior thanks to the Prison Fellowship Academy. While some might see Jonathan’s past write-ups and intimidating stature, Officer Dan sees a disarming smile, a friendly demeanor, and a wealth of leadership potential.
6. A CHURCH WITH A HEART FOR KANSAS CITY
PASTOR DARRON EDWARDS PARTNERS WITH PRISON FELLOWSHIP TO REACH THE LEAST, THE LOST, AND THE LEFT OUT IN KANSAS CITY.
"There are needs all year long, and when churches find out how to get involved, I really believe we'll see a change in our world that we've yet to see."
Pastor Darron Edwards and his church in Kansas City, Missouri, have supported Prison Fellowship Angel Tree since the mid-1990s. “Because God has afforded us a sense of abundant living,” Pastor Darron says, “… we wanted to pour it back into the least, the lost, and the left out.”
7. THE LEADERSHIP STYLE THAT IS CHANGING PRISON CULTURE
HOW WARDEN EXCHANGE IS TRANSFORMING THE WAY AMERICA DOES CORRECTIONS.
“The Warden Exchange® program is literally starting from the top down. And the Prison Fellowship Academy comes from the bottom up. Then those two together change the whole environment, change the whole culture, for the better.”
2023 marks the 10-year anniversary of Warden Exchange. While it has grown and changed over the years, its heart remains the same: to see transformational leadership create safer prisons for those who live and work there—now and for decades to come.
8. FINDING FAMILY AFTER 40 YEARS BEHIND BARS
HELEN’S LIFE SENTENCE PREVENTS HER FROM BEING WITH HER FAMILY, BUT IT DOESN’T STOP HER FROM BUILDING ONE BEHIND BARS.
“Did I have to come all this way, do all these years, to find that my purpose is to be obedient to God’s calling and to do His will? I do not believe that anything happens by accident. God brought me to this place, to this time.”
Today, Helen has served 41 years of a life sentence—and the woman she is now is nearly unrecognizable compared to the “insecure, insignificant … naïve country girl” she remembers being when she was first imprisoned.
Over the course of her sentence, Helen has dedicated herself to taking part in every program she could, from Bible studies and church services to educational and mentoring programs—including the Prison Fellowship Academy. During that time, God has also provided her with a family behind bars.
9. THE LIE OF CONTROL AND A LIFE OF SURRENDER
ANGIE WENT FROM A CHAOTIC CHILDHOOD TO AN ADULTHOOD OF ADDICTION. BUT GOD HAD A PLAN FOR PEACE.
“I 100% believe that God plucked me out of my environment and sat me down, so He got my full attention. I believe that He wasn’t going to let me go, and that He did have plans to give me a hope and a future.”
Angie wouldn’t have chosen prison, but she believes God used it to bring her a peace she would not have found otherwise. Prison Fellowship Angel Tree allowed her to remain close to her children despite her incarceration.
10. A RING AND A ROBE
A PASTOR’S KID AND STAR ATHLETE STRUGGLED TO KNOW WHO HE WAS—UNTIL HE CAME HOME.
“The Holy Spirit dealt with me, and He told me, ‘I’m still the God that loves you when you’re in your family. I’m still the God that loves you when you’re in church. I’m still the God that loves you when you have a career. And I still love you when you’re out there in the drug world. You built those walls. You have to tear them down, because I’m the God that loves all of you.’”
While incarcerated, Stephen sent gifts through Angel Tree for two years and says that the program helped him maintain the important parent-child bond. Allowing him to stay connected with his children despite his setbacks and struggles, Angel Tree was a way for him to let his kids know their dad still loved them.
11. WHAT DARRYL STRAWBERRY AND WILLIE MAYS AIKENS KNOW
HOPE NEVER STRIKES OUT.
“I used to be a Major League Baseball player. I hit home runs. I was in all-star games. I won championships, but who am I? [God’s] not looking for someone that's perfect. He's looking for people that are available.”
Former pro baseball stars Darryl Strawberry and Willie Mays Aikens both were at the top of their game—and both served time in prison. The former athletes came together to encourage incarcerated men at two correctional facilities in Missouri with the hope that can be found in putting their faith in Jesus.
12. A FAMILY HELD TOGETHER BY FAITH
PAM AND AARON BEGAN THEIR RELATIONSHIP ON THE RUN, BUT GOD BROUGHT ORDER AND PEACE AMID CHAOS.
“The vein that runs through this story is God. I have a praying mom and a praying family who are just relentless. In their prayers for you, you can’t be fully lost. You get lost, but you can’t be lost.”
Pam and Aaron had been friends for years, fell in love, and before they knew it, were on the run from law enforcement. Both eventually served time in prison but credit Angel Tree with blessing them with a connection with their children during a time of separation.
“I bet they could tell you what they got from him with Angel Tree because it's not the gift,” Pam says. “It's the thought behind the gift. It's love. It's the thought. [Angel Tree] can be life-changing, not just for one child, but for a whole family.”
THE INSPIRATION SERIES
We are so thankful that in an everchanging world we serve a Savior who remains constant and who—amid chaos—still offers restoration. We look forward to another year of powerful stories of God's faithfulness and grace.
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