Spending time visiting with Christian prisoners has been an awesome experience for me and for our ministry partners. Learning to listen to them, praying with them, sharing the Word with them, sharing food together, laughing with them, and crying with them, solidifies our friendship and makes them family to us. Believe it or not, the visiting room vending machines seem like a luxury buffet for them!
We say that we go to encourage and mentor these guys but often it’s the other way around. They actually often encourage and mentor us. Let me share a touching example from a young “lifer”. He writes to me as he prays daily for my family, “One of the worst parts about prison is how it prevents you from physically and actively being involved in the lives of those you love, from helping them. That used to really stress me out, and while honestly it still is a struggle for me, through many different events, God has shown me that no matter how much I think I love and care about someone He loves and cares INFINITELY more! He is always seeking good for us, for everyone! We can trust our loved ones to His care, He is ALWAYS faithful. “
That is a lesson that I needed to hear as I read that letter. As we go behind bars, we look forward to seeing what God is doing there in the lives of these young men. We can see bright light in the darkest of places. Most people have the TV perception of what it’s like behind those bars in a state penitentiary. The violence, the gangs, the bullying, the brutally unfair treatment, are all exploited on TV shows. Yes, some of that exists if you choose to live that way.
Many inmates are there because as a teenager they made one really bad choice that put them away for decades or even life. Some of them have learned to put God first in their lives and they live to serve Him in any and every way they can. They live to support each other and encourage each other.
To me, that is true rehabilitation. Yes, they live in the same very unfair system as other inmates. But the difference with “Believers” that I see just blows me away. When unfairness comes their way, and it does come often, they have developed the ability to put down the feeling for revenge and give it to God. They have learned to forgive and move on. That is a huge lesson that we can learn from them. The other great lesson we learn is patience. Nothing ever happens quickly behind bars. Getting impatient and stressed about something not moving fast enough doesn’t help or change a thing.
Many of the guys that we visit are heavily involved and active in the Prison Chapel activities. These include the “Missions Committee”, “Bible studies”, “Chapel Services”, and “Special Services”; when outside groups come in as outreach. They also have inmate musicians, and Chapel Theater, where inmates put on plays with a spiritual message.
These men are not only a bright light in the dark place of prison, they are a bright light in our lives and the lives of our ministry partners. If you would like to get involved with us as ministry partners, it can be as simple as sending an inmate an encouragement card or a Birthday Card with an encouraging message.
I have frequently witnessed how an inmate truly lights up and is blown away… knowing that somebody cares about him enough to send a card sharing the God’s love for him! It is a small act that feels huge to a Christian behind bars. And providing Christian encouragement to “The Least of These” will truly light up your life!
We have made it easy for you to send a birthday card to a Christian behind bars; go to http://prisonmentoring.com click on the “Birthday” tab, and you will find a list by birthdate, and the info on how to address the cards. Send a card with a few words of encouragement or a scripture verse, and you will be bringing His Light to Christians who will truly appreciate it!
For more information and stories about boys behind bars go to http://prisonmentoring.com Hear their stories. Listen to their hearts.