We try to help our clients stay out of trouble. We know our local law enforcement folks and rely on them. But our people go to jail frequently. And sometimes they go to prison.
We have a writing program to keep in touch with them. Volunteers become pen pals to our jailed clients. Cool relationships develop. We provide guidelines to keep it safe and within bounds. We provide stationery to write on. We learned that letters are passed around inside because people are so lonely. So we put important information on the back of the letter that we pray saves lives.
Bad things happen in jail and even more so in prison. However, lots of good things happen, too. Our clients who end up in jail often respond well to boundaries. They have a (very expensive) roof over their head. They have (very expensive and boring) meals provided. And they have nothing but time. Time to talk with themselves. Time to rediscover talking with God. And time to read Bibles. Oddly, a whole Bible is a rare thing in jail, according to our clients. So they often have to read whatever pages are there.
We received a couple of letters this week from jailed clients. One is in prison. We walked with him through self-loathing and fighting all the time, both products of pretty crummy upbringing and circumstances. He'll be 27 when he can get out. He's managed to be only in 2 fights this year, which is a pretty low number. He tries to keep to himself but that's not easy. He has two favors to ask: for people to write to him and for me to find a church that will send him regularly some type of Bible study.
The other is in county jail, but his legal case is going to take a while. He's been there for months and will likely remain there for many more. We walked with him through addiction. He once was just that close to trusting Jesus at a low point but pulled away. He had this to say: "I have begun life anew in here by the grace of God. I am at peace like I have not known in a long time. I do not have to chase a high that will never satisfy me like knowing God does now." He went on, "I was in shock when I got here. But I began to attend a Bible study led by my peers and asked Jesus into my heart as you showed me before." He isn't able to attend church because of the security level of his facility but he does have a Bible to read. He particularly likes Psalms, Proverbs and James at the moment.
Here are some quotes from our jail stationery. If you'd like to join our jail writing team, we'd love to have you. We have 7 people who aren't getting letters from a pen pal right now!
"Jailhouse conversions" may not seem real. They lives often don't bear fruit after getting out of jail. I'm not here to say if they are real or not. I asked a client who found Jesus in jail and who was recently baptized. He sure believes they are real. His advice to inmates, "Tell them to walk by faith and not by sight. It's hard in jail. And getting out is even harder. But it can be done by the grace of God on a daily basis."
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