Prison Fellowship and Angel Tree – Breaking the Chains

J. Lee


Prison Fellowship and Angel Tree – Breaking the Chains

“I was in prison and you visited me” — Matthew 25:36

PRISON FELLOWSHIP

Before the inception of the Prison Fellowship, incarceration was a revolving door. With no direction, many released prisoners fell into recidivism and became repeat offenders. Prisoners were housed and fed, but spiritually they were lacking hope. Many returned to their criminal behavior.

Prison Fellowship: Five Stages of IncercerationUnderstand typical changes prisoners experience as they process their new life as prisoners – Understanding a prisoners thinking and emotional state can help us minister to them more effectively. The five stages of incarceration—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance—are derived from the traditional stages of grief outlined by American Swiss psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.

TEN WAYS PRISON MINISTRY PROMOTES CHURCH GROWTH “Let’s explore ten core impacts prison ministry can have on the local church and its members”

WATERGATE SCANDAL

The Senate held investigations which were called the Watergate hearings. The investigation was televised in May 1973.

Wikipedia: Watergate scandal – The Watergate scandal was a major political scandal that occurred in the United States in the early 1970s, following a break-in at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1972, and President Richard Nixon’s administration’s attempted cover-up of its involvement. When the conspiracy was discovered and investigated by the U.S. Congress, the Nixon administration’s resistance to its probes led to a constitutional crisis.

On March 1, 1974, Charles Colson was indicted for conspiring to cover up the Watergate burglaries. He was the first member of the Nixon administration to be incarcerated for Watergate-related charges. The remaining six were John N. Mitchell, H. R. Haldeman, John Ehrlichman, Gordon C. Strachan and Kenneth Parkinson.

CHARLES COLSON

Charles Colson is the founder of the Prison Fellowship, Prison Fellowship International, and BreakPoint Radio, Media and Print.

For those who do not know him, he was one of President Richard Nixon’s henchmen during the Watergate scandal. He served as Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon from 1969 to 1973.

In 1971, it is said Colson authored a memo listing Nixon’s major political opponents – later known as Nixon’s enemies list, but in interviews he denies that. He was considered ruthless and Nixon’s hatchet man. Colson wrote he was “valuable to the President … because I was willing … to be ruthless in getting things done.

Remembering Charles Colson, a Man Transformed – The real story of how “Nixon’s hatchet man” ended up in, out, and back in prison (and the White House), shaping a movement in the process. – During the time he spent in jail, Colson had to learn many lessons in humility and penitence. Blows rained in on him. He failed to gain the presidential pardon that he had been expecting after the clemency granted to Nixon. He was disbarred from practicing law. His father died. His son was arrested for narcotics possession. But Colson gradually began surrendering to God’s will. He immersed himself in Bible reading, started a prayer group with fellow prisoners, and completed the Design for Discipleship course published by the Navigators.

He became a Christian in 1973 while facing the possibility of an arrest. He was led to the Lord by his friend Thomas L. Phillips. The book he was given called Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis was the catalyst for his salvation. After his salvation and prior to his arrest he attended a bible study. The press ridiculed him. They insinuated his salvation was a ploy for a reduced sentence.

 In 1974, he served seven months in the federal Maxwell Prison in Alabama. He was paroled in July 1975 after serving seven months of his one-to-three year sentence.

While in prison he started a bible study with fellow inmates. He founded Prison Fellowship in 1976 after he was released from prison. His goal was rehabilitation and reform. He founded Prison Fellowship International in 1979 and BreakPoint in 1991. He passed away on April 21, 2012.

Video: History of Prison Fellowship – “The history of Prison Fellowship and how God used Chuck Colson to bringing light into the darkness called prison.”

Video (1:18:58): Chuck Colson – How God Turned Around Nixon’s Hatchet Man“What is life’s purpose? How can God fill the emptiness in life? Join Chuck Colson, former Special Counsel for President Nixon during the Watergate scandal, in a conversation about religious transformation and how prison taught a disgraced politico the great paradox that losing your life will save it.” 

MARY KAY BEARD

Mary Kay Beard was a convicted bank robber. She learned her craft from her husband. Before being arrested, she was wanted in four states. She was on the FBI’s most wanted list. In 1972 she was arrested. She received a 21-year sentence in an Alabama prison.
While in prison in Alabama, Beard attended a Sunday school class given by volunteers for six months. No matter what else they spoke about they always said, “Jesus loves us and Jesus is the answer to any question.” She was skeptical, but she willingly listened to their message. In her early years, her mother spoke to her about God and faith.
While in prison she was reading a bible. While flipping through it she noticed Ezekiel 36:26-27.

Ezekiel 36:26-27: And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Mary Kay after reading that scripture – “OK, God,” she prayed in her cell that night, “If you will do that for me … I will give the rest of my life back to you.”

As an inmate she notice fellow inmates collecting and trading items such basic toiletries. Those items were wrapped and given to their children. Angel Tree was born from that tradition. Instead of toiletries children would receive gifts from their wish list on behalf of their incarcerated parent.
She passed away on April 17, 2016

KAIROS PRISON MINISTRY INTERNATIONAL

KAIROS PRISON MINISTRY INTERNATIONAL – The mission of Kairos Prison Ministry is to share the transforming love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ to impact the hearts and lives of incarcerated men, women and youth, as well as their families, to become loving and productive citizens of their communities.

MISSING FATHERS – MISSING ROLE MODELS

The prison system is filled with wounded men and women from single parent homes.

CONCLUSION

Children are our future. If we can reach them, we might end the cycle of crime. When we reach adults, we can help them alter their thinking.

To end the cycle of incarceration, the Prison Ministry and Angel Tree have been effective within prison walls and on the outside.

Both have numerous outreaches and activities for inmates and their children year round.

Volunteers assist inside prison walls with bibles and services. On the outside there are pen pals, camp counselors, chaperones at dinners, parties, sports clinics and deep sea fishing.

In November, food is collected and distributed to families for their Thanksgiving dinners.

Also in November, the Christmas card mail-out begins. Volunteers package Christmas cards that are distributed to those willing to mailing them. Each package include 20 cards designed by inmate’s children. By February, most inmate responses have been received and needs addressed.

At year end, families are invited as VIP’s to a dinner in their honor.

Angel Tree children and their caregivers are invited to a Christmas party with crafts and snacks. Children receive gifts.

Prison Fellowship: The Effectiveness of Faith-based Prison Programs

Participation by prisoners in multiple in-prison Bible studies conducted by Prison Fellowship reduced their recidivism by 66 percent (Justice Quarterly, Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, March 1997).

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