For 36 years now, my burning passion has been to minister to people in prison. It is God’s call on my life.
And every year, every month, every week, almost every day, I see or hear about God utterly transforming the lives of men and women who have been abandoned by society and placed in the world’s darkest holes.
You’d think I’d get used to it, that somehow the excitement would wear off. But it doesn’t. There’s nothing like it in the world.
Take the story of John Jennings. He grew up in North Carolina, and he’d be the first to tell you he was a little wild growing up. He went to college, was a real math wiz, but he dropped out in favor of selling drugs. He supplemented his earnings by preparing people’s taxes in way that beat the law.
Then he started robbing banks. At age 37, John landed in prison, facing 165 years for armed robbery and other crimes. Folks, I can’t even describe the emptiness and despair a man feels when he’s sentenced to even three years behind bars -- no less 165.
In the midst of that despair, Prison Fellowship volunteers entered John’s life. John heard about PF Bible studies they were leading at the prison. He decided to join in. And there he was introduced to Jesus Christ.
Then, not long before one Christmas, PF volunteer Bruce Williams sang a song that stopped John in his tracks. The song went like this: “When others see a shepherd boy, God may see a king. Even though your life seems filled with ordinary things, in just a moment He can touch you, and everything will change.”
John asked for a copy of the song, and Bruce mailed him a cassette recording. Soon, Bruce began meeting with John, and when John came up for parole, Bruce was there to vouch for him. And when John was set free, Bruce took him into his home, dressed him in new clothes, and gave him a job in the family’s business.
Out of gratitude to God, John founded a ministry for ex-prisoners, helping meet their spiritual, physical, and financial needs.
Jesus gave John a new life. And He stood by John even as John went through an ordeal greater than prison. After John was released from prison, his son was murdered by a man who had been a friend. In the courtroom, John faced his son’s killer, tears streaming down his face.
John said, “God told me to tell you He loves you, man...And the only way we win today is if you give your life to the Lord.”
John struggled to get the words out: “God loves you -- and I love you.” Leaving the courthouse, John heard God speak to him: “Now, son, I can use you.”
And God HAS used him and so many thousands of prisoners and ex-prisoners who have come to Christ through the ministry of Prison fellowship volunteers. And they would say, with John, “I am where I am today because of Prison Fellowship.”
I hope you can see why I’m so passionate about the work of Prison Fellowship. And I want to be frank with you: We need your support in these difficult financial times. Any donation you could make will have a holy impact, and will be a personal encouragement to me. Simply visit www.prisonfellowship.org or call 1-877-478-0100. From the bottom of my heart and for the sake of Him who died on the cross in our place, thank you.
This article published on May 21, 2011. Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.