Reaching Through the Bars
The state of Texas recently released the final statements made by their death row inmates (dated back to 1982). This may be morbid or maybe not, but I just got through reading about half of the list. I’m not asking that you read it nor is this post intended to be a debate on whether or not the death penalty is just.
But simply: My heart is breaking for those in prison.
In reading through this list, it is interesting to see the variety of statements from these men: Some fight the system and claim their innocence. Some ask for forgiveness from the ones they hurt. Some say I love you to their friends and family. Some pray to God for forgiveness. Some are cold and have no remorse. And some chose to make no statement at all.
What I found the most heartbreaking about this list wasn’t the statements from the inmates without remorse, but rather, the inmates that sang praises to Allah and the Islam faith as their last breath. Many of which seemingly converted IN the prison system. These are criminals, some committing acts against humanity I can’t even begin to fathom — that are leaving this world without knowing the true Jesus and without His forgiveness, without His peace.
Did you know that Islam is the fastest growing faith in our country’s prison system? I consider what our role in the lives of these inmates should be. If we as the American church claim to be for the sinner/the seeker and sell the gift of grace every week, should this not also include those that society has put away?
“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
I have written about prison ministry before and if you know me, you know I have heart of this outreach.
Prisoners are alone, broken and afraid. They are right for the Gospel… they deserve to know the Gospel just as you and I did… and they want to talk to you.
Even as Jesus (who was without fault) was beaten, bloody and dying — He chose to love the remorseful criminal who was hanging next Him and said, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Here’s the thing… not every prisoner is there for life. Most will eventually be released, if for no other reason than crowd control. If we can help those in prison come to know Jesus before they are released, imagine the impact someone like that could have on future generations? The impact that would have on the family and life they left behind?
In working with the prison ministry with my church, I have seen and heard of men leaving prison knowing Jesus, and turn around and mentor other inmates. Mentor in youth programs. Become pastors and have their lives completely changed.
It is likely that if you have prison in your area, there is already a discipleship program in place that YOU would be able to team up with. Forming a prison ministry takes time, but the reward is eternal.
We are called to love the least of these. If we don’t, who will? Tear down the walls of the modern Church by reaching through the bars to a people who need Jesus, too.
I used to write a daily devotional on a MySpace page and through that made contact with a woman named Sandy Stiles who was doing prison ministry in Texas. I was so moved by her sincerity and love for these women that I started supporting them.
About a year ago I was called to Dallas for work and had the chance to meet Sandy and a few women whose lives had been transformed by Christ and Sandy’s program. It was so inspiring to see how these women changed their lives…and so many Christians won’t even consider lifting a finger to help those behind bars.
Great Post! Thanks for spreading that message.