Yell out Bill Ziering around here, and I’ll come running. 5 years ago I jumped to a different name. 60669-097. That at age 70, I would wind up in a federal penitentiary and bed down in the infamous “hole”, was beyond inconceivable.
In this upside down broken world, please know my dear friends neither nor you nor you have absolute immunity.
The Bureau of Prisons has had a great recruiting decade. Their’s is a huge growth industry. Presently 2.4 million are incarcerated in America.. A 1000 more are rushed each week. Still another 4.6 million are on parole/probation.
Not frightening enough? Well listen up, the forecast for year 2010 and beyond, is for the steady release of 1 million additional prisoners - men and women, with few marketable job skills from non-existent rehabilitation, so ill prepared to return to their families and re-entry to our communities that crimes even more risky than what they initially perpetrated are likely. And failing miserably, 75% will shortly return to their sanctuary city behind walls.
Prisons in America are indeed graduate schools for crime. And in the end the system punishes us all - family, wives, children and the community. Surely crime must be swiftly dealt with, and criminals must be disciplined, but what has evolved is a system of unbridled persecution and abject cruelty.
Others think so too. There are more than 3400 registered organizations active in standing up to the abuses. And while this is not a Christian problem there are Christian solutions. So what does Jesus have to say about it? Listen:
· “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners.” (Heb 13:3)
· "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." (Gal: 6:2)
· “I was in prison and you visited me. Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matt:25)
· "...Whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant... for even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Mark 10)
· “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 5:16)
· For) I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you) gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.
John Wesley declares: “The fall out from rampant incarcerations in no longer an issue that can be easily avoided. Ministry with offenders and victims, then, is not optional; it is mandatory if the church is to be the church. As an instrument of God's reign, the church has no choice but to cast its lot with the ostracized, victimized, and marginalized
We have a very precise and frugal God who doesn’t mince words. That in scripture he references the word prison 129 times and the word captive 250 times, who among us doesn’t believe he wants us aboard now to join with Him.?
Prison ministry is discipling the inmate population. But there’s so much more.
The innocent families left behind are perhaps locked up in an even more devastating prison. How we come beside them may be the very testing grounds of our obedience.
Post-prison ministry or aftercare is the heaviest burden, and is society’s weakest link. Please Google Prison Fellowship Ministries, His Hidden Treasures Kairos, Koinonia, and Redemptive Ministries on approaches to restore the releasee with his family, church, and community.
Pastor Jimmy Dorrell of Mission Waco defines compassion as getting out of our place of safety and security and entering the pain. For the prisoner, charity in the form of one-shot visits, food kitchens, Thanksgiving dinners, and throw-away clothing doesn’t do it. Rather the family cries out for acceptance and integration back into the community and the church as co-brothers and sisters. Their need is the rebuilding of self-esteem, their dignity, a job, not the traditional form of charitable giving. It's not giving them money and helping them out through the next crisis. It‘s giving them value, mainly through one- on-one mentoring. It is in helping them identify the gifts they have and giving them the confidence the world has beaten out of them.
The Lord rains his abundant love on the righteous and the unrighteous. So just maybe when we do God’s work, and carry his burden it is you and I who are released as captives of this world. Hope eternal lies in Jesus Christ. He a prisoner, executed for His message, was a poor fit in this world. We, prisoners of sin all, were released at the Cross. Jesus came to the world to testify to the truth, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives. Should we do less?
Bill Ziering, firstname.lastname@example.org,