Over Easter weekend I met a young man in a prison infirmary. He wore a Styrofoam helmet to protect his badly damaged skull. His had been terribly incapacitated by the same drunk-driving accident that killed his boyhood friend. As the driver in the accident, this young man was facing a 40-year sentence.
This Sunday Prison Fellowship will celebrate the Resurrection with services behind bars. Some prisoners will be hearing the Gospel for the very first time, and my prayer is that their hearts will be softened as they listen. Others will already know the Gospel.
Recently I met Randy, a quiet, unsung hero of the effort to bring men and women safely back into our communities. Randy’s background is not exceptional. He’s a carpenter without a college education. He’s a former addict. But when we talked, he was just about to open his sixteenth transitional home to keep a roof over the head of former prisoners.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. – Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)
In Romans, Paul writes to a group of people who are sharing in Christ’s sufferings.
One January weekend I spent two very full days with my daughter and her husband, renovating one of the bathrooms in their house in Michigan. They wanted to do a real overhaul of this particular room, with new plumbing, electrical wiring, and drywall work.
“The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.”
“It’s not going to last very long.”
That’s what everyone said about Prison Fellowship’s InnerChange Freedom Initiative (IFI) – a values-based prisoner reentry program drawn from the life and teachings of Christ – when it started in Lino Lakes, Minn. The inmates who signed up met in the basement.
Recently I received a letter from two women in their early 20s. They were inmates at Rikers Island in New York, and they had written on the front and back of the same sheet, because together, they were able to come up with just one envelope, one stamp, one pencil, and one piece of paper.
It’s a New Year, the time for making resolutions that we never intend to keep! That’s not quite true, of course. It’s good for us to work toward goals and dreams for the future, but let’s face it – it’s hard to keep our resolutions; if we’d all lost all the weight that’d we’d committed to every New Year, none of us would even exist anymore!
Saturday morning I was in an inner-city elementary school in Washington, D.C., where a friend of my daughter is a teacher. What I saw and heard there broke my heart. Ninety percent of those kids lived in the projects, and despite the earnest efforts of teachers, many of them are reading far below grade level.
Rushing through an airport to catch a recent flight, I was able to take advantage of a moving walkway that sped up my journey – and then another. I was about five steps onto the second one when I realized it wasn’t moving.
When fear and insecurity fill our hearts, we respond with selfish indifference to the needs of our neighbors. But when faith rules our lives, when we have wrestled with God and found Him true, we become secure in His ability to care for us, and we cease to doubt and fear.
On a recent trip I found myself in the ornate office of a state governor. This leader and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things – in fact, he didn’t even believe God existed, but he had invited me to come talk with him about the work of Prison Fellowship Ministries (PFM).
In prison ministry it’s easy to focus our attention on the most hardened cases. When a lifelong criminal (like the subject of this week’s feature story) turns to Jesus, it’s a real cause for celebration! But it’s also a miracle when God intervenes to turn a young person away from a hopeless lifestyle.
Recently in Decatur, Ala., I was privileged to visit a new ministry founded by a graduate of the Colson Center’s Centurions program.
During her studies, Leigh learned to incorporate a Christian worldview into every aspect of her life. She learned to stand on the shoulders of those who had gone before her so that she could see where God was leading her.
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