A few weeks ago I was in a Florida prison, visiting the residents of a faith-based dorm there. As soon as he saw me, one man named Richard came up to me and gave me a bear hug, even though the prison regulations discourage physical contact between visitors and prisoners.
How are Christians called to serve our broken neighbors? In a sermon to Ridge Point Community Church in Holland, Michigan, Prison Fellowship Ministries President and CEO Jim Liske discusses the importance of being “people of restoration” for those in need of God’s healing.
In the aftermath of any senseless act of violence, we cry out, “Why?” We feel more vulnerable in the communities we live in. We reach out for solutions that would prevent something similar from happening in the future. But most often, we are left without any real answers.
Today there are approximately 2.7 million children with a mom or dad behind bars in this country. There’s no easy way to tell who these boys and girls are. They are all over the country, in busy cities and sleepy towns, in gated communities and run-down projects.
The Ghent Altarpiece is a magnificent piece of art. It was commissioned in the early 15th century, and it depicts the most important figures and scenes in the Christian story.
During World War II, the Nazis stole this priceless work of art – along with countless others – and hid it deep underground in a mine, intending to one day put it in a museum dedicated to the glory of the Fuhrer.
On a recent trip to Minnesota, I visited with the ladies who are part of the InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI) unit in Shakopee, the only women’s prison in the state. I asked them, “If you could tell the people who support this program anything, what would you say?”
A young woman I met recently was 22 years old. Her adult life had barely begun, but she had already done quite a bit of hard living. She was one of several children born to an overburdened mom. Her dad was not around to help.
Ninety percent of runaways and homeless children are from fatherless homes. So are 63 percent of teens who commit suicide, and 39 percent of jail inmates. When it comes to kids’ well-being, nothing is more beneficial than a loving, supportive relationship with their fathers.
I had the privilege of performing a wedding last weekend. The bride is a godly young woman, and the groom is a fine young man and Jesus follower. As a couple they are a matching set. One can see how God has created them for each other and will use them mightily.
As my friend Quovadis Marshall, the director of spiritual development at Prison Fellowship Ministries, likes to say, Christians aren’t primarily saved from something – we are saved for Someone. Yes, Jesus, redeems us from our sins, and that’s hugely important. But we are saved in order to have a relationship with the living God who loves us.
God has made all of us to be leaders in the sphere of influence given to us. Some of the most important and precious work we do with prisoners is to help them realize that they, too, have this potential and calling to be leaders.
Just recently Prison Fellowship received a sizable gift from a young man, not yet 30, who is enrolled in one of our intensive, faith-based reentry programs behind prison walls.
I am always encouraged when a man or woman behind bars gives back in this way.
This coming Sunday we’ll celebrate all the moms in our lives – mothers, grandmothers, and special women who have loved us well and helped us become the people we are today.
Lately I’ve been thinking about moms in a unique circumstance – the ones behind bars.
We think a lot about restoration at Prison Fellowship Ministries. We believe that restoration is the theme of God’s activity throughout Scripture – and in the present day, too. Since we want to take our cue from Him, we work and pray to make restoration the goal of everything we do with prisoners, returning citizens, families, financial partners, and everyone in between.
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On a recent visit to a prison I met a man I’ll call “Tom.”
Tom’s past is typical of many stories I hear. He is a repeat, nonviolent drug offender. By day, on the outside, he was a truck driver, but he also sold drugs to supplement his income.
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