John's story: If not for God’s grace, he might have lost all hope

"I was sitting in an eight-man cinder-block cell in a Texas county jail,” John recalls. “And my life was falling apart.”

Annie’s story: A miracle of God’s grace

“I believe inside every incarcerated woman is a little girl still believing lies about her dignity and self-worth,” Annie Goebel says. And she should know.

Anthony’s story: “I was an enemy...of God”

He was big and tough—a thug through and through—but Anthony was crying like a baby. “Until the day I got saved, I was an enemy and hater of God,” he admits. But on this day, none of that mattered.

Regina’s story: Overcoming a lifetime of failure

“When I was brought into the prison system this time, I was broken,” Regina says. “I was completely broken. And I just couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t get it right.” Regina wanted to change her life.

Nick’s story: A portrait of redemption

When Nick was a little boy, his family took him to church twice a week. But it didn’t mean anything to him. And when he reached his teenage years, he started drinking and doing drugs.

Bill’s story: No longer the man that he was before

There is a sadness in Bill’s voice as he describes how addiction destroyed his life. “I couldn’t work. I couldn’t do anything else,” he recalls, “so, of course, I started stealing.”

Michael’s story: The day the Gospel invaded Folsom Prison

California’s notorious Folsom Prison is the last place you would expect to welcome the Gospel.

John
Annie
AnThony
Regina
Nick
Bill
Michael

Although she now leads Prison Fellowship’s outreach to women who are incarcerated, Annie also once believed
the lie that she was alone, unloved, and that she had no value.

Annie has something else in common with women behind bars. She served time in prison too.

Annie’s life on the run began as a teenager

Raised in a violent and abusive home, Annie spent much of her childhood listening to her parents scream at each other and cowering in fear when the military police drove up with their red and blue lights flashing.

She was only a teenager on the night when her brother rushed into her room and yelled, “Get up and help me. Dad is loading his .45 to kill us.” Right then, Annie knew she’d had enough.

She slipped out a window and ran away from home. I can take care of myself, Annie thought. But she quickly discovered that life on the streets was nothing like she’d imagined. Soon she was in trouble with the law. She spent her 15th birthday in jail.

By the time she was 16 she was living totally on her own and running as fast as she could from God. Years went by. “As I slid further down into a pit of darkness, I knew my life would soon be over,” Annie says. “Satan had almost won.”

But one night, alone and on the run from yet another abusive relationship, she realized she couldn’t fight God any longer. Annie says, “That night I went outside and under the stars and I cried out to Him, ‘Jesus, please come into my life and save me!’”

“He answered my prayer in the most amazing way,” she recalls, “with an indictment for my arrest.”

But God had a plan for her—and it was BIG

Convicted on a drug charge, and still just 32 years old, Annie tried to be brave as the gates of the prison slammed shut behind her. It was all she could do to hold back the tears as she told her young daughter, “Goodbye baby, Mommy loves you and will see you soon.”

Annie’s heart nearly broke as she came to grips with the reality of the toll a year behind bars would take on her children.

She wrote to the judge, begging him for mercy. And again, God answered her prayer.

The judge allowed Annie to serve three years of probation instead of a year in prison. But that was only the beginning. The women at her church embraced Annie and her kids. They became her mentors and her friends. Annie went back to school and earned a teaching degree, graduating with honors. And by a miracle of God’s grace, she got a job teaching at a high school—even with her criminal conviction.

And God still wasn’t through with Annie, not by a long shot. She didn’t know how, yet, but she was about to find out that He had big plans to use her. You see, one day while Annie was working on her master’s degree, she was invited to hear a former prisoner, a man named Mel Goebel, speak. What she heard that day would change everything.

“God has laid it on my heart to call out women who have been incarcerated and are now living victoriously to help start a ministry for women and go back into prison,” Mel said. Annie knew he was talking to her.

“God called me out that night,” she says. “I always knew that He could use my story of transformation.”

Today she’s an ambassador to women behind bars

Together, Mel and Annie founded Daughters of Destiny, a ministry devoted to reaching women behind bars. That was also the beginning of their love story. Today they are husband and wife. Last year Daughters of Destiny became part of Prison Fellowship. And under Annie’s capable leadership, we’re taking outreach to women in prison to a whole new level.

That includes our evangelistic Hope Events. We're planning more than 175 evangelistic outreaches this year at prisons across America. And we expect to share the Gospel with at least 35,000 incarcerated men and women at these events.

Hundreds could come to know Christ. And thanks to a matching grant, any gift you give to help make Hope Events possible will be DOUBLED!

Because your gift will be doubled, each $14.50 you contribute will cover the full $29 cost of sending one prisoner to a Hope Event. What a great way to celebrate the victory over sin and death that Christ won—and to encourage those like Annie, who are now sharing the message that transformed them with others behind bars.

Please help today if you can.

“I was facing 37 years. I just wanted to die. I started banging my head against that cinder-block wall, saying, ‘God help me. God help me. God help me.’ Until blood started running down my face.”

The other guys in the cell just watched. John was their entertainment for the evening. But somewhere, someone like you took a very different view—offering hope to John that would transform his life.

While John was in prison, he remembered something from when he was a kid: As an 11-year-old boy he had once gone to church with friends and been baptized at a Christian camp.

“In that cell I remembered the name of Jesus,” John says. He cried out, “Jesus help me.” And He did.

He called on Jesus

“Immediately I just felt a peace. And I calmed down and composed myself. It was just like the presence of God had come over me.”  

Just then, the chaplain stopped by and asked John how he was doing.  John told the chaplain what had just happened. The chaplain said, “God told me to pick up a Bible. I didn’t know who it was for. But now I do: it’s for you.”

A divine appointment

God answered John’s prayer for help when he called out in his time of need. And John couldn’t wait to share the good news with his parents, especially his mom.

“She had worn out her knees praying for me,” says John.

A mom prayed fervently for years

Dorothy had always prayed for her son’s salvation. As she watched his transformation, she could only thank God, saying, “I’ve had more grace and mercy than any one person should be allowed to have.”

Today, John is a Prison Fellowship field director in Texas. And when he goes back into prisons, his mom, Dorothy, often goes with him.

“I am so proud…”

Dorothy says she loves those times. “They all call me Mom,” she says.

Dorothy also says, “One of the best things for me is, now when we come to the prison, when it’s time for me to leave, my son leaves with me. I am so proud of the godly man my son has become.”

At Easter, you can reach someone like John

Prison Fellowship is planning 175 Hope Events at prisons nationwide this year. Based on past averages, we estimate these events will share the Gospel with at least 35,000 incarcerated men and women.

Thanks to a matching grant, any gift you give to help make Hope Events possible will be DOUBLED!

Because your gift will be doubled, each $14.50 you contribute will send one prisoner to a Hope Event. What a great way to celebrate the victory over sin and death that Christ won for all who receive Him, even those who are behind bars.

Please help today if you can.

He was shaking all over as he jolted awake. The drugs had worn off and he knew that, this time, he was facing a long stretch in prison. Then Anthony did something that you just don’t do on the inside. He broke down sobbing in his cellmate’s arms.

Anthony made a mess of his life

“I said, ‘Celly, are you awake? Can I talk to you for a second?’” he recalls. He also remembers how dangerous that was: “In prison, men do not confide in other men. You’ll start a fight that way.”

Anthony says, “I started telling my cellmate what I’d been feeling. I was finally being broken by the weight of all my life of sin.” And then, suddenly, his cellmate looked him straight in the eye and said, “Anthony, let me ask you something. Are you willing to surrender to Jesus as your Lord and Savior?”

It was the last thing Anthony expected to hear, but it was also exactly what he needed. “I’d never shared a cell with a Christian before,” he says. But he had been raised by God-fearing grandparents who took him to church when he was a boy.

“I didn’t even realize what I was saying,” he adds. “But I remember dropping to my knees, falling on the floor, and crying out, ‘Yes, God, I surrender to You. I’m done running from You.’”

The next morning, his cellmate, also a Christian, handed Anthony a Bible and said, “This is where it all begins.”

He surrendered to Jesus and became a new man

Anthony was eager to grow in his faith, and, thanks to the many faithful friends who support Prison Fellowship, he had plenty of opportunities. “He is so passionate,” says Prison Fellowship staff member Audrey Frey, who has worked extensively with Anthony. “When he starts talking about the Word, you just get excited about how God has turned his life around.”

After Anthony was baptized, Audrey helped him enroll in a Prison Fellowship program that provides intensive, seminary-level leadership training. He excelled from the beginning. He wanted to serve God, and God alone, once he put prison behind him. Once again, God gave him the desire of his heart.

Anthony’s story is proof God works behind bars

Following his release from prison in 2015, Anthony landed a good job at a Christian-owned manufacturing business and soon found a good church home.  He also completed a year-long pastoral internship at his church—leading men’s discipleship groups, serving as a member of the preaching team, and helping with the children’s and youth ministry.

But by all accounts, including Anthony’s, the best is yet to come.

Prisons remain a vastly underserved mission field, he contends. “There are men behind these walls that God is raising up to be leaders,” he says. “I’m evidence that God is at work behind the walls.”

But many still need to be reached

Christ died for these men and women. God longs to transform and use them for His glory. But first, we must reach them with the Gospel.

We’re planning more than 175 evangelistic Hope Events this year at prisons across America. We want to share the Gospel with up to 35,000 incarcerated men and women.

Thanks to a matching grant, any gift you give to help make
Hope Events possible will be DOUBLED!

Because your gift will be doubled, each $14.50 you contribute will cover the full $29 cost of sending one prisoner to a Hope Event. What a great way to celebrate the victory over sin and death that Christ won for all who receive Him!

Please help today if you can.

But with each stay behind bars, her will to keep trying was growing weaker.

After a lifetime of failure, she had only one hope. She tells the whole story here and her newfound passion will inspire you. “I prayed to God,” she remembers. “I said, ‘Please guide my steps and show me what it is that I’m not getting right.’”

“He did,” Regina says, and suddenly a smile spreads across her face.

God answered Regina’s desperate prayer for help

She’s no longer haunted by the memory of her childhood—a time, Regina says, when she received little spiritual guidance. She knew about Jesus, she confesses, but says, “I didn’t know what it was that He did for me.”

At Folsom, all that changed. “Now I understand the things that God has been doing in my life,” Regina says. “He’s been orchestrating my life all the time—I just wasn’t listening.”

It took going to prison four times. But, in prison, Regina finally found the answers she was seeking.

She delved deep into God’s Word and ultimately enrolled in the Prison Fellowship Academy. “I look forward to the next 50 years of my life,” she says with a twinkle in her eye, “because everything that I screwed up these last 50 years I have a chance to do over.”

Regina has found freedom in Christ. And she longs to share it with others. She knows that many incarcerated women are just as frustrated and desperate as she was.

Regina also knows that women on the inside need the Gospel—and that one of the best ways to share it with them is at a Hope Event, like last year’s blockbuster Easter Hope Event that rocked Folsom.

Will you help make it happen?

You can help another prisoner find freedom in Christ

That includes our evangelistic Hope Events. We're planning more than 175 evangelistic outreaches this year to prisons across America. And we expect to share the Gospel with at least 35,000 incarcerated men and women at these events.

Hundreds could come to know Christ. And thanks to a matching grant, any gift you give to help make Hope Events possible will be DOUBLED!

Through the power of the match, each $14.50 you contribute will cover the full $29 cost of sending one prisoner to a Hope Event. What a great way to celebrate the victory over sin and death that Christ won for all who receive Him.

Please help today if you can.

Nick moved out of his home and into a trailer with buddies so he could live as he pleased.

And then one day, when he got short on cash, he robbed a loan store.

Nick’s rebellion landed him in prison

Nick was caught quickly and arrested. More problems with the law followed. At age 17, he received two 10-year prison sentences.

In prison, Nick decided he would rather be a victimizer than a victim. As a result, he was in continual trouble and in and out of solitary confinement. Nick even got time added to his sentence for bad behavior.

In hopes of finding a way to shorten his sentence, Nick joined a Prison Fellowship Bible study. Nick still had not opened his eyes, but God was beginning to soften his heart.

He shares the whole story here. You’ll be amazed when you see how God has transformed him.

And it all began when he was invited to a prison evangelistic event like the Hope Events we’ll be hosting in prisons across the country this year.

He only showed up because he thought there would be girls

“Why do I want to go to this? They last for hours!” Nick complained. But when he was told there would be girls there, his attitude suddenly changed. It turned out there were no girls and Nick sat in the back so that he could escape as soon as possible.

But during the singing, God got his attention.

“I realized that I had never read the Word and never truly worshipped God before,” says Nick. He says he remembers the speaker declaring, “There is a man here today who needs to lay down his life.”

Nick tried to put up a fight. “I was angry,” he recalls. “Asking God in was like admitting that I was weak.

“At that point I just started weeping, and I knew when I stood up, I was giving it all up.”

Nick prayed to receive Christ that day. And slowly, he began to change.

Transformed by grace, Nick longs to reach others

Several years later, after a long period of discipleship, Nick was released from prison. He started sharing his testimony with churches and went on to work for Prison Fellowship. Today he is serving as executive director of a ministry in Arkansas that mentors prisoners as they return to society.

He is grateful for his time in prison because he knows he probably never would have come to the Lord on the outside. He’s working hard to become the man God wants him to be. But his heart also aches for those who are still behind bars.

Nick knows that God longs to transform and use them for His glory. But first, we must reach them with the Gospel. That’s why Prison Fellowship will host at least 175 evangelistic Hope Events this year at prisons across America.

You can help with your gift today

Based on past averages, we estimate that these events will share the Gospel with at least 35,000 incarcerated men and women. Hundreds could come to know Christ.

Thanks to a matching grant, any gift you give to help make Hope Events possible will be DOUBLED!

Through the power of the match, each $14.50 you contribute will cover the full $29 cost of sending one prisoner to a Hope Event. What a great way to celebrate the victory over sin and death that Christ won—and to encourage those like Nick, who are now sharing the message that transformed them with others behind bars.

Please help today if you can.

“I would steal anything that wasn’t nailed down from just about anybody,” Bill confesses. “In 1985, I got arrested for a robbery and pretty much stayed in prison, off and on, until 2005, actually.”

“I would get out for a while, get high, and go back,” he recalls. “It was just a vicious cycle.”

Bill even admits that, when he first enrolled in the Prison Fellowship program, “I wasn’t looking to change anything. I was just looking to get out of prison sooner.”

But while he was in the program, God did a work in Bill’s heart. “I had a heart change,” he says. “I didn’t want to be the same Bill that I was before.” You won’t want to miss a moment of the story and you can get it all here.

You can help reach thousands of prisoners with the Gospel

You’ll be amazed at what God has done in Bill’s life. More than a decade after being released from prison, he can confidently claim, “Because of Prison Fellowship, my mentor, my wife, and my family, my life is good today, and I don’t ever see it going back to the way it was.”

He also hopes that his story will inspire men and women who are in prison right now to seek new lives in Jesus Christ.

Bill knows that God longs to transform men and women who are now behind bars and use them for His glory. But in order for that to happen, we must reach them with the message that their lives can be made new.

We’re planning more than 175 evangelistic Hope Events this year at prisons across America. Based on past averages, we estimate that these events will share the Gospel with at least 35,000 incarcerated men and women.

Thanks to a matching grant, any gift you give to help make Hope Events possible will be DOUBLED!

Through the power of the match, each $14.50 you contribute will cover the full $29 cost of sending one prisoner to a Hope Event. What a great way to celebrate the victory over sin and death that Christ won for all who receive Him!

Please help today if you can.

It has a well-earned reputation as an intimidating place, housing some of the most dangerous incarcerated men, many of whom are serving long sentences for serious offenses.

But last year, on Easter weekend, Folsom was rocking. Not with anger or the echoes of a riot, but with the sweet sounds of salvation and victory in Jesus.

Prison Fellowship President and Chief Executive Officer James J. Ackerman was there.

Prisoners like Michael are hungry for hope

There was one prisoner in particular James says he will always remember:

He was standing alone on the edge of the crowd. You could tell he didn’t fit in. I couldn’t help but wonder what had brought him here. He looked so young and so out of place.

When I walked over and asked him, he told me his name was Michael. He was 28 years old. He expected to be in prison for a while. He didn’t say why, and I can understand that. Just being locked up at Folsom was reminder enough.

As the band played, I asked Michael what he thought about the Hope Event. He liked the music, he admitted. And he said he believed in God. But it had been many long years since Michael thought about his Creator.

I breathed a silent prayer that today would change that.

As shy and withdrawn as he seemed on the outside, you could see Michael was hungry for the hope Christ offers. As Francis Chan got up and started to speak, he was hanging on every word. Michael edged a little closer when Frances spoke about God’s love—about grace that could completely wipe away his past.

Then suddenly, as Francis invited the men to come forward and accept Christ’s offer of salvation, Michael stepped out of the crowd and walked boldly to the front.

I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. I was witnessing a miracle. And it wasn’t just about Michael. More than 50 prisoners trusted Christ that day inside the walls of Folsom Prison.

But what happened that Good Friday was just the beginning.

You can help reach them with your gift today

You see, Prison Fellowship shares the Gospel in prisons across the country all year long. This year alone, we will host at least 175 evangelistic Hope Events.

Based on past averages, we estimate that these events will reach at least 35,000 incarcerated men and women with the Good News of new life in Christ. Hundreds could come to know Him.

Thanks to a matching grant, any gift you give to help make Hope Events possible will be DOUBLED!

Because your gift will be doubled, each $14.50 you contribute will cover the full $29 cost of sending one prisoner to a Hope Event. What a great way to celebrate the victory over sin and death that Christ won for all who receive Him.

Please help today if you can.

Share Resurrection HOPE with a prisoner this Easter

Help proclaim the Good News in prisons nationwide at special Hope Events this Easter AND throughout the year. Give by Sunday, April 21, and your impact will be DOUBLED up to $10,000 in matching funds to reach TWICE as many prisoners!

Help write the stories of lives transformed

Easter is all about hope. The hope that because Jesus is risen, there is no life too troubled to be transformed. That’s the message Prison Fellowship proclaims in prison yards across America at our Hope Events. Each year, countless incarcerated men and women respond to that message with open arms.

Lives are eternally transformed as a result. You’ll read many of their stories right here. You’ll be inspired, but please also remember—we need your help to write more stories like theirs this Easter.

 Your generosity makes it possible to point prisoners to Jesus Christ, who can turn their lives completely around.

Help proclaim the Good News in prisons nationwide at special Hope Events this Easter AND throughout the year. Give by Sunday, April 21, and your impact will be DOUBLED up to $10,000 in matching funds to reach TWICE as many prisoners!