The truth is…a decade ago I never would have guessed that I would be celebrating 5 years of prison ministry! I would have believed that any such endeavor was without reward. In any case, I could not have predicted my involvement or that I would recommend such a journey to my fellow Christians. In fact, my previous view of inmates was through a singular lens, provided mostly by television shows and movies. Their view and focus are skewed towards the dangerous and violent men and women who, certainly, are a part of the prison population. Rarely, if ever, do they present those who are warm, kind-hearted people who have made mistakes and are now regretful and have repented their ways. This population is never highlighted. Probably because their Christian beliefs and behavior are not the stuff that makes great ratings. And, society finds it easier to just believe that they are all without value in society.
Who Do We Serve?
My first “pen pal” relationship with an inmate was the result of sending out a dozen Christmas cards with hand written words of encouragement to Christians, as a volunteer for Ed Spencer’s “4th World Ministries Christmas card program”. I just thought that it would be a one-time effort. It only took about two hours of my time, and seemed like a good thing to do for my friend Ed. About 10 days later, I was surprised to receive a letter back from one man who had received my card. I was even more surprised to realize that this guy was intelligent, articulate, and had a great sense of humor. He was also humble and sincere in his appreciation of my effort. When I told my friend Ed about this, he laughed and said that there were many men like him in prison; he called them the “forgotten Christians”. You know; out of sight and out of mind.
I went home that day and wrote a letter back to Alexis Rodriguez, sharing my enjoyment of his letter, and some of my favorite jokes, which I told him were better than his. Well, that began a relationship which has changed my spiritual life forever. Our weekly letters found us sharing life in a way that was completely new to me. From this budding friendship and fellowship, a sense of purpose arose within me—I decided that I had to meet “Lex” in person and see what it was like to visit an inmate. Meeting Lex in the visitor’s room turned out to be easier than expected, with my friend, Ed, at my side, visiting his “mentee”, David. Soon we were laughing and sharing life’s experiences; I was learning about prison life, and he was enjoying the sharing of my life’s adventures and issues. Three hours evaporated in about 20 minutes. I left knowing that I had met someone who would become a friend.
The Surprising Rewards
Over the next year, my wife and I visited Lex about 6 times, both of us enjoying his company—each visit like a picnic of vending machine offerings that we learned far surpassed the quality of their everyday fare. We found that the time spent was rewarding in ways we hadn’t expected; we put our faith into action to serve those in prison… “Continue to remember those in prison as though you were together with them in prison…” (Hebrews 13-3). In reality, prison ministry served us! This spiritual journey made us closer to God and even closer to each other. We began the website, www.PrisonMentoring.com, which has furthered our journey, and touched the lives of many inmates and their families. During these 5 years, inmates have shared many transformations of the heart, wonderful testimonies, encouraging spiritual poetry and commentary, and a wealth of gratitude and kindness, much of which we have published. We have shared prayer requests lists and have prayed for each other’s needs countless times.In truth, their gratitude and spiritual insights have been incredibly encouraging for us and for our ministry partners—an outcome that we never predicted!
Take the Next Step
There are a number of ways that you can venture into this rewarding experience, spending as little as an hour or two a month. For example, you can choose a few names from our website Birthday Card list and send them a short note or a card, letting them know that you are a fellow Christian who is praying for their health and safety—and that you are looking forward to hearing from them. You will get appreciative replies from those who like to write, and your journey will begin! You might find that you begin to truly enjoy a relationship, and if so, you may wish to actually visit that person—the Holy Spirit will guide you… Perhaps you will share the experience with a good friend who also begins to write to Christian inmates and shares the journey with you. You can also volunteer as mentor for Christians who have recently been released and are now in a Christian reentry program, like the fine program at Liberty Ministries in Schwenksville, PA. Let your heart and the Holy Spirit within you direct your path, and the richness of this unique journey will forever change your life!
I enjoy helping people who have interest. Please feel free to email me with your contact information, and I will answer your questions, share my experiences, and offer guidance and encouragement along the way. You can enjoy an amazing journey, full of blessings and growth. Bon Voyage! I look forward to hearing from you!
Rick DiLaurenzo, Founder and Editor. Mail: P.O. Box 310, Hilltown, PA 18927
Email: Rick@PrisonMentoring.com Website: www.PrisonMentoring.com