By Christy Hoagland
We take prayer requests in our prison services and one of the greatest desires of the incarcerated is reconciliation with their families. They long to be restored to the ones they love, they ones they belong to. And they need that connection with the outside world, they yearn for their forgiveness, their love, and to be included in the family they left behind. This isn’t a matter of being worthy, this is a matter of grace. There’s not much one can do behind the razorwire to earn trust. They try with words and they pray.
I think when these men come face to face with their sin and repent and turn to Jesus, their eyes are opened and their hearts broken for their people, their precious families that have to struggle and wade through life without them. They see the grace that Jesus offers to them and it gives them hope. Because if Jesus can forgive them, maybe, just maybe someone else can too. And so they pray, they ask for prayer, and they wait… longing for a phone call, a letter, a visit… just a glimpse of mercy from their loved ones. We’ve seen it happen for some, a picture received of a grandchild, a daughter… a long awaited letter. And for the rest, they’re still waiting. And if we are honest, some will wait forever. Sunday night at JCCC, the maximum security prison, (where men seldom go home and the ones that do have spent most of their lives there), we took prayer requests and a gentleman asked for reconciliation with his family… if he had any family still alive… he didn’t even know… he’s still waiting.
The other side? Families outside the razorwire are still waiting too. We led a service at a sweet little church recently and a woman asked us to pray for her husband who was incarcerated, she was very broken, weeping over not having him there with her. Her prayer was for him to be encouraged, for Christians to rise up around him and help him stand strong. And so we prayed, and she waits. Prison ministry is not just for the ones on the inside, at practically every service we’ve had the privilege to be a part of we have encountered families that have been affected by a loved one being in prison. Another prayer request from offenders… pray for our families, our children, who have to carry on without us.
Some might say they don’t deserve to be restored to their families, that their families are better off without them, that they are getting what they deserve. We understand that there are consequences for our actions and they are indeed paying for them but we are called to love them, to show them grace. It’s what we are commanded to do, it’s what this ministry is about…love and grace for those inside the prison walls and for those outside waiting. Pray and wait with them.
“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Hebrews 13:3