We will never know this side of heaven how the Holy Spirit will use our seed-planting to bring multiple harvests resulting in countless lives touched by the Good News of Jesus!
We are often asked why we choose to do prison ministry. Charles T. Studd, missionary to formerly unreached people in Asia and Africa, said it best:
There are so many creative ways to minister and work in the harvest fields! God can and will send out anyone to be His voice, hands, and feet!
Miracles! That’s what I call it. Shining hope in the midst of darkness.
The fact that my son, Stephen, is incarcerated and resides in a prison facility is beyond my control. I can’t be with him, but God definitely is.
And we have recently seen proof that shows that our living God loves those men behind the razor wire. Back in January, Stephen told us about a young man he befriended, Bryan. He shared with us how Bryan proclaimed to be an atheist and didn’t want anything to do with God. So Stephen prayed for him. I prayed for him. I enlisted others to pray for him.
Eventually, Bryan had Stephen ask me to call his family for him and ask them to go visit, or write. I would send a text message to his family and then later receive a reply. Then the next time I spoke to Stephen on the phone, I’d pass the message along.
It hit me that this young man was desperate for contact with the outside world. His family has faced tragedy after tragedy. From what I gleaned, they are bogged down dealing with life, and just keeping themselves afloat.
So my husband and I began to write Bryan. Stephen cautioned me not to write about Jesus or God as Bryan would reject it. So we sent inspirational photos and quotes printed on regular paper. No scriptures. No preaching. Just pages of inspiration and positive images. The only thing I told him was that I am a praying woman and I’m praying for him.
Early March, we had a contact visit with Stephen where he shared concerns he had about Bryan. We prayed more. Shortly after our visit, disciplinary measures were taken against Bryan, and he was separated from Stephen. For security reasons, inmates are not allowed to contact one another by any means. So Stephen and Bryan no longer communicate with one another.
I contacted Freedom in Jesus Ministries (FIJM) for information and to pray. Stephen Canup, a minister with FIJM, mailed us a teaching on salvation and an accompanying prayer. We continued to pray for Bryan’s salvation as times became even more difficult for him.
Three days after Easter, we received a letter from Bryan that he wrote on Easter Sunday. In his letter he thanked me for my letters as they were always positive. Also there was a guy he barely knew that shared what Jesus had done for him, and Bryan who usually argued with anyone who shared about Jesus had nothing he could say. He went on to explain how he read More Than a Carpenter by Josh and Sean McDowell. This book caused him to think, so he pulled out his Bible and sat it on the night stand by his bunk. Then he said out loud, “If my family comes to visit today and says anything whatsoever about God, just the word God, that will be enough of an eye opener to at least give God a chance.” (Note: His family rarely visited him and this challenge to God was most likely a long shot in Bryan’s mind.)
At 4:15 p.m., Bryan went to chow and returned to his cell by 4:30 p.m. Thinking that no one would come now because visitation closed at 5pm, Bryan decided to take a nap. But at that point an officer showed up at his door and told him to hurry up and get dressed that he had a visit. By the time he made it to visitation, he only had 20 minutes remaining. He visited with his sister and brother-in-law and he wrote, “Now I’m listening very closely to what they have to say because I made this promise earlier. Not one word was mentioned about God or Jesus the whole visit. Now remember, I’m talking through the phone because I can’t get a contact visit. Then the very last sentence out my sister’s mouth is still ringing in my ears. She said, ‘God bless you Bubba.’ Now it’s hard to give up something I have believed in for so many years, but I made a promise. So I flipped to a page in the Bible. Isaiah 1:16-20 to be exact. That’s all I read. So that is where I stand now. What do you think I should do? All I know now is that if I want something different, I have to do something different.”
We wrote Bryan back and explained that “today is the day of salvation.” And when we received his next letter he confirmed he kept his promise. He wrote, “It’s hard to explain, but I feel different. More calm and peaceful.” He’s been reading The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren and An Anchor for the Soul, Help for the Present, Hope for the Future by Ray Pritchard. He also received the FIJM newsletter and he wrote, “I really like the Freedom in Jesus Ministries. I received a letter from Stephen Canup last week.”
Bryan confirmed his salvation as he wrote, “Out of all days for God to pick for my Salvation and Deliverance was 3-31-13 on Easter! I’ll never forget that date for the rest of my life.”
You see my friends, Jesus cares for everyone. He searched after Bryan as a shepherd searches for a lost sheep.
Bryan was lost, but now he is found as the Shepherd went after him! Bryan acknowledged God in this way when he wrote to us, “I believe God introduced me to Stephen, who introduced me to both of y’all, who introduced me back to God. I thank you with all my heart for what y’all have done for me. Y’all gave me something that will last an eternity. As you can tell I gave God more than a chance, I’ve given my life over to Him.”
God is with my son and he’s sharing God’s love with those around him. So even in the midst of this trial and adversity, we see miracles! And I thank God for His loving grace as we rejoice over one!