Prison Fellowship's founder had a dream of equipping churches to build up leaders behind bars. Nearly 50 years later, the vision is stronger than ever.
On paper, my nephew should never have become addicted to drugs. He was a bright young man raised in a wonderful home by godly parents. And yet, he traded it all in for his substance abuse, leaving his heartbroken family behind when he went to prison.
The following is a version of remarks given by Prison Fellowship President and CEO Jim Liske at Movement Day NYC, a gathering of Christian leaders discussing how to cultivate Gospel movements in urban areas across the country. For more information about Movement Day, visit www.movementday.com.
Ron and Phil sat side-by-side on a platform, sharing about the decades that their life stories have intertwined. The journey began when Ron, then a drug addict desperately seeking cash, shot and killed Phil’s father.
After Ron pulled the trigger, he went to prison.
In the Bible, a period of 40 years represents a generation. I’ve been thinking about this as Prison Fellowship prepares to celebrate its fortieth anniversary.
In the generation since Chuck Colson founded Prison Fellowship, America has gone from incarcerating just over 200,000 people to more than 2.2 million.
One of the most beautiful churches in upstate New York is the Church of St. Dismas, The Good Thief, in Dannemora. Built between 1939 and 1941, this Neogothic-inspired stone chapel boasts massive oak doors and an impressive spire.
The church stands on the grounds of Clinton Correctional Facility, a short distance from the prison’s outer walls.
“E.J.” is a mom serving time in a Texas prison. A new Christian, she was baptized in August and is in awe of God’s deep love for her.
Just a few weeks ago she participated in a “Day with Mom” event that allowed her some precious time with her children.
I visit prisons frequently, and rarely do I feel uncomfortable. When the prison staff will permit it, I shake hands with and even embrace incarcerated men without fear. But one recent experience left me feeling shaken.
After a worship service in a prison auditorium, I was taken to F Block, a multi-tier roundhouse where the prison’s most violent and hardened residents are kept.
We were being watched.
At a worship service behind bars, I was sitting among some men that I remembered from a previous visit. I was jarred out of the music by the realization that officers armed with rifles were standing watch in “guard shacks” that extended from the walls of the auditorium.
Roberto and I had never met before, but neither that—nor the prison regulations against physical contact with visitors—kept him from giving me a bone-crushing hug.
“I’m so thankful you are here,” Roberto said, towering over me while a grin stretched across his face.
In the community where I grew up, my father had a friend named Albert. Albert was known throughout town as a drunk, but my father stuck by him, anyway. He saw not who Albert was, but who he could be—a child of God full of love and joy.
The greatest gift in Zachary’s life is his daughter. Like many new dads, his whole world changed when she was born. “She was the light in my world of endless darkness. She made me see,” he wrote in a recent letter to Prison Fellowship.
“Restore us, LORD God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.” – Psalm 80:19
To restore something, in a spiritual sense, is to return it to the state God intended for it. God created men and women in His image and gave us the privilege of loving Him and one another.
In a major criminal justice reform speech this week, President Obama brought attention to the steep rise in America’s prison population over the last few decades—and its collateral consequences for prisoners’ children.
“Around one million fathers are behind bars,” the president said.
I’ve only ever been a member of one prison gang. Some time ago I was made an honorary member of “God’s Gang for Change,” the faith-based dorm at a correctional facility in Alabama.
On a recent visit I had the privilege of celebrating a worship service with my fellow “gang members.”