by Christy Hoagland
Last week, at the end of one of our services, a young man, mid-twenties, surrendered his life to Jesus. He was broken and distraught, he doesn’t know how to live any other way then what he’s known all his life. He has two young children at home and one on the way, he doesn’t know to be a father, he doesn’t know how to work, he only knows dope – those were his words that night. But now he has Jesus and a new way to live, one day at a time, one moment at a time. And because of the Holy Spirit’s power in him, he is free and can stay free…and learn a new way to live.
His story is not unique, so many of these men and women in prison know no other life than addiction, abuse, jails, prisons…breaking these cycles begins with Jesus. He is the only way to be free from the bondage of sin and when an inmate (or anyone for that matter) gives their life to Christ those chains are broken and their life really begins. I cannot imagine how afraid some of them must feel, how difficult it must be for them to grow in their faith while evil is on every side because of where they are, while the enemy is constantly trying to bring them low, reminding them of their mistakes, to make them feel hopeless and unworthy. And here they are, trying to climb out of their old lives into this new one in Christ – filled with hope, love, grace and mercy. It is hard for some of them to take in, to believe they can be forgiven, can really be free and have joy and a life full of abundance. This new way to live, this new life, is possible through Jesus and a relationship with Him. Once these men and women grab hold of that, believe and surrender, they will be free, they will be overcomers because of Christ’s work in their lives.
Picture this young man or women inside the razor wire…they finally muster up the courage to come to a chapel service in prison, they hear about this Jesus that loved them so much to die for them, take the punishment for their sin and offer them salvation, they accept this free gift and then they walk back to their cell and wonder what just happened… they now have the Holy Spirit (Glory to God!) and this hope, this immediate newness and they are overwhelmed. Surrounding them is a vile and vulgar environment and they must block it out so they can grow in this new life. They will be ridiculed and tempted and more. Some will be able to stay strong through it all and some will fall and have to get back up.
And this… is why we go, to offer this freedom in Christ Jesus and to remind them they can stay free! That they are no longer slaves to sin. They need your help, pray for them and their families, surround them when they leave prison and come into your church, your community. Love them like no one ever has before, if that seems difficult for you then remember what Jesus did for YOU too! Love them like Jesus loves you! Encourage them and remind them of their freedom only found in Jesus.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
This is why the Freedom Campaign is so important…we want these men and women to really be free, to be a light in the darkness inside of prison while they are there and a light in their families and communities when they come home. This isn’t about us, this isn’t about money, God can make this happen without any of us or any donations from anyone…but I’m glad He chose me to be a part of it and maybe He is choosing you too. Pray and seek Him about how He wants to use you in setting the captives free.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18