July 17, 2008
Thursday, 3:30 p.m.
Letter #45: Fruitful Prison Ministries
Greetings in the Lord! God is great and greatly to be praised! Both today and yesterday our midweek chapel services were canceled. Yesterday, the pastor who normally leads services was turned away because he was wearing a blue shirt, a dress code violation. Today, I’m not sure what happened, but the Spanish pastors didn’t show up. Though it’s disappointing, I’ve learned to just be grateful for any opportunity to worship.
The cancellation of the two midweek services also meant that I couldn’t practice the piano. Most of you know that I practice with the Spanish group after playing an opening worship set for the English study on Wednesdays, and then I practice with the English choir after playing for the Spanish worship set on Thursdays.
The greatest blessing is hearing, each week, the testimony of a different inmate whose life has been transformed by the saving grace of Jesus. I can tell you from my experience in many hundreds of churches and services that these testimonies aren’t your typical churchy kind. Not only are these typically the stories of men who ignored God for quite a while before He got their attention, but they also are typically stories of lives broken by the prison system and families torn apart.
It is so inspiring to see firsthand the fruits of the labors of so many of God’s people in churches today—you! I often hear of ministries, such as the Gideons, having a huge impact here. When someone is sent to the hole, he gets a couple pieces of paper, a pen, and a Bible provided by the Gideons.
There are many other types of ministries: Bible colleges, Christian publications, Christian radio stations, etc. that minister to prisoners, and there are dozens of prison-specific ministries too. One such ministry you’ve probably seen in your church: Project Angel Tree. Though I’ve seen it dozens of times and participated in it, there was something special about seeing this side of the ministry. Well coordinated and administered, a buddy of mine spearheads this yard’s Angel Tree outreach.
This Monday, a dozen volunteers—a couple from each building—met to learn how it works. Then, during dayroom, they find men who have kids under 18 years old and give them a brochure with a registration form attached. Each guy picks out (from a bunch of pictured sample items) the type of gift he’d like his child to receive for Christmas. Churches receive the requests and fill them, delivering the gifts to each home in time for Christmas, telling each child the gift is from his or her daddy.
Well, you should see how the guys who are new handle this info—pure shock! Each guy in my building who has done it before shared about what a huge blessing it was to his family.
On the registration form, inmates can request free information about God—since most participants don’t go to church, this is a great anonymous way for them to seek Christ on their own. Of course, Project Angel Tree is only one of many dozens of incredible ministries making a positive impact here. I’ll be sure to share with you ways you can prayerfully and practically support the mission field here.
I’m using a daily devotional provided free to the prison by Kenneth Copeland Ministries. Each day highlights a different aspect of walking in faith. I’ve also recently started the “40-Day Spiritual Journey” using Rick Warren’s bestseller, The Purpose-Driven Life. I know; I know; you’ve all read it already, and I’m finally getting around to it.
That being said, I’m telling you honestly, if you haven’t read it, yet—you must. How many books have I recommended to you? See? Now, I can’t guarantee you’ll get it at no cost, like my special-edition that says “A gift to our brothers and sisters in prison,” but I guarantee you that it is worth far more than whatever you pay for it.
I’m blessed! But a major component of that blessing is—catch this—I’ve put myself in a position to be blessed! Read the Word, study good books, pray in faith knowing He hears and answers your needs—you’ll be blessed! Thank you for your faithful prayers for me and notes of encouragement!
I love you!