“At about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and
singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were
listening to them” (Acts 16:25).
Whenever I read this verse, I am challenged to consider what the environment was like. I am sure that 1st century conditions, in that prison, were less than ideal. However, in spite of where they were, the prisoners were attracted to the Gospel message and to what Paul and Silas had to say.
While there are many questions this text can invoke regarding the prisoners and the prison environment, what we know for certain is this: when the Gospel is presented, the incarcerated have an opportunity to receive salvation.
We also know, if salvation is received, “whole households can be saved!”
The power of the Gospel cannot be contained!!!
Our Ministry Continues
So, how does a prison ministry stay active when all volunteer programs and services are temporarily suspended at jails and prisons because of the coronavirus epidemic? I am glad you asked that question.
Life Abundant staff and volunteers are:
• corresponding with men and women through letter writing.
• mailing Bible study curriculum and notes of encouragement.
• recommending programs and aftercare support to the incarcerated.
• still supporting formerly incarcerated men and women.
• in fervent prayer for the incarcerated, the staff and other volunteer
• preparing to return to the jail to fulfill expanded responsibilities.
• preparing to meet the needs of recently released offenders
(due to Covid-19).
We are also in the planning stages of establishing a channel of communication, i.e. phone, internet, etc. dedicated to receiving inmate prayer requests and/or praying with those still incarcerated.
Because we were able to distribute more than 100 Bibles over the past 6 months, we know that many of our incarcerated brothers and sisters have the Word of God to read and lean on during this time of uncertainty.
Soon, we will be faced with unprecedented numbers of formerly incarcerated people looking for hope, support and basic assistance. As we are more involved with men and women post-release, we find ourselves in a position to do the greatest good with our resources.
*As of March 30, 2020, 141 men and women were immediately released from the Bucks County Correctional Facility in order to create space for a medical isolation unit. Many were simply unprepared.
Testimonies – God at Work
I recently spoke with our executive director emeritus, Herb Rose, during a time of updating our records to more accurately reflect the number of men and women that have been touched by this ministry. Shortly after our discussion, I had a chance to reflect on some of our experiences with Joe E., Joe M., Sean, Tony, Angela H., Fred, Lorraine, Karen, Lashonda, Wilson and Pauline – all of whom are still free and doing well in their respective communities.
I was also reminded of Mel and his work with those impacted by incarceration. As a ministry leader, he has argued that “we cannot turn all prisons and rehabs into Christ-Centered Discipleship Centers. However, we can go into such places either in person or through correspondence and we can support ex-offenders when they leave prisons and rehabs.”
As a product of prison ministry and one who continues to work in this context, Mel knows first-hand that “everyone has some ability to be a part of the solution.”
God is at work in the hearts and lives of the incarcerated.
Between January and June of 2019, we recorded 53 professions of faith.
Now that deserves an AMEN!
We also received 60+ requests for our mentoring program and several requests for post-prison support. Several of our alumni are attending local churches and still meeting with their mentors.
“As Christians we have an obligation to show others
what God says about living self-controlled lives and
being responsible for our moral actions, as God defines them.”
Stories from the Field
In 2009, Sue picked up a woman who was stranded in the Redner’s Market parking lot after being released from the Bucks County Jail. Here’s an excerpt of her story:
“I learned a lot about how the [prison] system works; that this woman left with only what she had been arrested with. And since her sister’s phone was disconnected, she was at a loss on what to do next.
What an opportunity to share with this woman that God truly was taking care of her and to tell exactly how He had gotten me to Redners at that hour! We had an opportunity to talk and I listened to her story and learned a lot that day about God’s compassion for ‘the least of these.’
I dropped her off, praying with her and telling her to get connected with a Bible believing church. I went home and called the Executive Director of Life Abundant at the time and he talked to me about the prison ministry. And that, started my adventure.
I can’t tell you what a blessing God has poured into my life through mentoring and now leading Bible studies. It is an absolutely awesome thing to see how He invites each of us to share His love with others that are in a most difficult place. As we share the reason for our hope, He uses that to increase our faith and restore our souls. To God be the
glory!” Volunteer Sue.
After much prayer and consideration, we have decided that it is time for Life Abundant to open a residential aftercare home!
We are in the early stages of planning and have just begun looking at specific areas for the home.
More details coming soon!
POSTPONED: Our 2020 Annual Fundraising Banquet has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It is our hope that we will still be able to hold this critical event in 2020.
Please also know that we are praying for you and alongside of you during this time of uncertainty.
Although we are in uncharted territory, no territory is foreign to our Lord. God knows the beginning and the ending, and it is in Him we place our trust!
In His Service,
Jonathan H. Lewis, Executive Director
Regina Bready, Women’s Ministry Coor.
Ruth Haines, Administrative Assistant