|Prison Fellowship volunteer Jeff Nelson talked to the inmates about universal human experiences.|
Call it poetic justice. One evening in June, at Michigan’s Milan Federal Correctional Institution, Prison Fellowship special event volunteer Jeff Nelson, a pastor by day and a poet by night, spun rhymes for federal inmates who had gathered around to listen. He spoke about universal human experiences – the wonder of seeing his newborn son, the grief of his mother’s passing, and the inspiration of a mentor who believed in his potential. When he struck a chord, some of the inmates snapped their fingers, like beatniks from an older decade.
Prison Fellowship organized the night of poetry readings in conjunction with the FCI-Milan Recreation Department. After a similar event last August met with success, June’s event was an encore performance. It incorporated readings by local poets – two from the outside community, including Jeff and poetess Rhonda Welsh, who discussed how her Christian faith influences her daily life, plus four poets incarcerated at the facility. Denise Harris, a Prison Fellowship field director, estimates that 145 men came to listen.
The inmate poets offered provocative musings on topics their listeners could easily relate to: justice, struggle, family, and what they needed to do to be better men.
|Rhonda Welsh used poetry to show how her Christian faith affects her daily life.
The opportunity to express themselves through poetry offers a voice to inmates who are often told they are nobodies, and that no one cares what they have to say. It also offers hope, and a low-barrier entry point for inmates who might be interested in Prison Fellowship’s other offerings at FCI-Milan, including a worship service held on the third Monday of every month.
“After that night, it was kind of neat,” says Denise, “A few inmates said they would like to learn how [to perform poetry], and some are wanting to come to our Monday service.”
When God uses something as simple as a poetry night and the willingness of a few creative volunteers to awaken inmates’ interest in their Savior, that’s music to Denise’s ears.
GO DEEPER: Want to share your unique talents and gifts so that inmates and their families can have hope for a new life? Visit www.www.www.prisonfellowship.org/get-involved and discover the many opportunities waiting for you!