From PFI President & CEO, Andrew Corley
Charles Dickens created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and is one of the Victorian era’s great novelists. His stories still speak to us today. What is less well known is that Dickens was a believer and a follower of Christ and much of his writing is the result of personal experience. What is even more interesting is that he was the child of a prisoner.
Fired by righteous indignation stemming from his situation and the conditions of the poor in his time these became major themes of his work.
In A Christmas Carol, which sums up some of the major themes, we see Ebenezer Scrooge’s heart change. He starts with the immortal line “Bah Humbug!”… cold and hard, unable to think of others…..but Scrooge’s eyes are opened, and eventually he treats others with kindness, generosity, and compassion, embodying the spirit of Christmas
His life was transformed by perspective, understanding, and generosity.
I also want to encourage you with these words from the mouth of the creator of the Universe, whose birth as the fully God and fully human one we celebrate at this time:
“The Son of Man will come again with divine greatness, and all his angels will come with him. He will sit as king on his great and glorious throne. All the people of the world will be gathered before him. Then he will separate everyone into two groups. It will be like a shepherd separating his sheep from his goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the king will say to the godly people on his right, ‘Come, my Father has great blessings for you. The kingdom he promised is now yours. It has been prepared for you since the world was made. It is yours because when I was hungry, you gave me food to eat. When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I had no place to stay, you welcomed me into your home. When I was without clothes, you gave me something to wear. When I was sick, you cared for me. When I was in prison, you came to visit me.’ “Then the godly people will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and give you food? When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you with no place to stay and welcome you into our home? When did we see you without clothes and give you something to wear? When did we see you sick or in prison and care for you?’ “Then the king will answer, ‘The truth is, anything you did for any of my people here, you also did for me.’”
—Matthew 25:31-40 ERV
At Prison Fellowship International, this is our goal:
Our wonderful donors, of which you are one, have risen again and again to the opportunity to partner with us. The impact is undeniable.
Thank you. You have no idea how appreciated you are.
And by the grace of God and with your support we are resolutely committed to accelerating into the future in 2021. This is the theme of our faith-filled strategic plan for next year.
It will continue because of the passion that God has placed in each of us, through the generosity of good people like yourselves and because it must according to the command of Jesus.
We still have many financial needs for this year and next. Would you help us with a special single gift at this critical time?
We are deeply grateful for your continued support, perspective, understanding, and generosity. And we cannot do this without you.
I sign off all my communication with the following signatory words: “We go because we must, we go well because we can”.
I might add “we also go because our wonderful supporters enable us to.”
Breaking the cycle of crime is difficult. But through a holistic approach that cares for prisoners’ spiritual lives, physical needs, and family relationships, it’s not just possible—it’s happening. Florence, a prisoner and a mother of two from Zambia, will tell you.
“I was sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor,” says Florence. “I felt sorry for myself, but there was nothing I could do at the time.”
When Florence went to prison, she left her young daughters, Ketty and Chisenga, in her father’s care, but he struggled to provide for their needs. Ketty and Chisenga stopped going to school because they couldn’t afford to buy shoes, clothes, and school supplies.
“I was so annoyed with myself because I was the one who had been providing for them, but now I couldn’t,” says Florence.
When it seemed hope was lost, a team from Prison Fellowship Zambia visited Florence’s prison to tell the inmates about a program that cared specifically for children of prisoners by providing them with food, clothing, spiritual care, home visits, and helping them pay for school fees.
Florence immediately registered her girls and, through Prison Fellowship Zambia, saw something greater at work in her life. While the staff sought out her children in their hometown, volunteers began visiting Florence and sharing about God’s love and faithfulness.
“I have seen the hand of God in my life,” says Florence. “I saw it while in prison. . . . After hearing the Word of God, I gave my life to Jesus Christ. That very day was the beginning of my transformation.”
To learn more about what it looks like to follow Jesus, Florence joined Prison Fellowship International’s in-prison evangelization program, The Prisoner’s Journey®. Through it, she learned more about who Jesus is and what he calls her to do with her life. After graduating from the eight-week program, Florence decided to take her faith one step further and join Prison Fellowship International’s Sycamore Tree Project: Justice and Peace®: Justice and Peace, where she learned what it looks like to take responsibility for her action and make amends to the people she hurt.
Florence now considers herself a changed woman with a new focus in life.
“The greatest desire of my heart now is the Bible. I am very grateful to God and to Prison Fellowship Zambia. [They are] Indeed doing amazing things in the lives of inmates and their children.”
Samuel in Colombia is no stranger to difficulty. At five years old, he faces physical challenges and developmental delays due to complications at birth that affected his brain. He is prone to frequent convulsions, has difficulty walking, and must still wear a diaper.
But that’s not all.
Samuel is also growing up without a father because his father is in prison. When the breadwinner of the family goes to prison, families are often left in dire situations and the mother or grandparents are left to work and care for her children alone. Children are often scarred emotionally from their parental separation and from the stigma and isolation they experience among their peers and communities because it is shameful to be associated with a prisoner. Despite their innumerable challenges, Samuel’s mother lovingly cares for him. Still, she struggles to give him everything he needs.
Samuel recently joined Prison Fellowship Colombia’s children of prisoner sponsorship program, which has provided additional support to help lift their burdens. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Colombia, health was an important part of PF Colombia’s children’s program, providing food, training caregivers on health and safety issues, and monitoring the mental and emotional health of children and caregivers. And PF Colombia provides specific training and support for children with special health needs, like Samuel.
Samuel’s mother says she is comforted by the spiritual and emotional support and strengthened by the material assistance. With it, she is able to provide Samuel the dignified life he deserves, and Samuel will grow up knowing he is loved by many.
Give Now to Provide Special Support for Children Like Samuel
Twelve-year-old Seethal remembers the day the floodwaters seeped into her home and rose. In October 2019, India receive the heaviest monsoon rainfall in 25 years, leaving homes, shops, and hospitals waterlogged and many families in danger and displaced. Seethal’s family was one of the lucky ones, as a rescue team brought her, her mother, and brother to safety. Their home, however, suffered a great deal of damage and many of Seethal and her family’s precious few belongings had washed away.
As a child of a prisoner, Seethal and her family have already lost so much. Prison Fellowship India (PF India) stepped in to help, enrolling Seethal in the children of prisoners sponsorship program, which provides her with regular food, clothes, educational, emotional, and spiritual support through a one-to-one connection with a child sponsor. Together, Seethal’s family and PF India prayed for God’s provision. He answered their prayers through Seethal’s sponsor, who provided a special monetary gift.
Amazed and grateful, the family used the money to make a partial repair to their home and buy Seethal a new dress to replace one she lost in the flood. Their home was in need of more repairs, but the family continued to trust God. And then, unbidden, Seethal’s sponsor sent another gift! The money was enough to finish their home repairs and replace more goods lost in the flood.
The support of a sponsor can mean so much to a child of a prisoner and have the power to restore more than material goods, including their hope and faith in a God who cares for them deeply.
Give a Child of a Prisoner the Gift of Hope
As soon as Prison Fellowship Zambia learned of the COVID-19 pandemic, they realized the probable impact in Zambia and sprang into action.
Sensing an imminent lockdown, the staff wasted no time in organizing a food distribution for caregivers of children in the program. At the distribution, they enforced social distancing and kept the groups to ten people. They also provided information about COVID-19. Each caregiver received instruction on handwashing, hygiene, and social distancing practices.
Since the lockdown in Zambia, the staff has used innovative ways to serve children, like connecting through phone calls and WhatsApp.
Help Protect The Most At Risk Today
Melody did not feel good about herself. Her mom noticed when her grades started dropping and she no longer wanted to go to school. At the tender age of 10, all Melody wanted was to fit in with her peers, but she says she felt different.
Melody is different. She is the child of a prisoner, and in countries like Zimbabwe it is shameful to have a parent in prison. Families like hers are often cast aside by their communities and to make things worse, they often cannot afford life basics such as food, shelter, and clothes—let alone school uniforms.
Melody did not have a school uniform, and this made her stand out even more.
“Without a uniform, I don’t feel like I belong,” she said.
For children like Melody, a school uniform can mean the difference between loneliness and a sense of belonging—something Melody desperately needs at this critical time in her life.
The Children of Prisoners Program staff in Zimbabwe encourage the continued education of each child in the program, which includes providing support for school supplies and materials, including uniforms. They provided Melody with two dresses, two pairs of socks, and a pair of shoes for school.
Melody was humbled and grateful. She knelt in thanks as she received the package from Prison Fellowship Zimbabwe.
“Thank you so much,” she said. “Go and pass my gratitude to others!”
Melody now feels much better about herself and can be seen at school happily chatting and playing with her classmates. The gift of a simple uniform has helped Melody see something she couldn’t see before: a future.
“The sky is the limit!” she says.
That’s the difference a uniform makes.
Give Now to Provide Uniforms for Children Like Melody
Aubrey was one of the first children registered into the child sponsorship program in Malawi. He is a shy, curious, and charming six-year-old boy who lives in a rural village with his baby brother, mother, and grandmother. The Prison Fellowship Malawi team and Prison Fellowship International staff met with the family on the front porch of their home to complete registration. The registration process collects information about children and their families to enroll children into the program. It also allows the program team to identify a child’s imminent needs and how program support can help.
During registration, Aubrey’s mother shared that she could not afford to send Aubrey to first grade, because the country’s school fees—which equates to $1 USD— were too high. She said Aubrey loved school and it saddened her that he was not able to go. That was the first time Aubrey spoke up, saying he wanted to go to school, but couldn’t. A few moments later a large group of students walked down the street past Aubrey’s home. He immediately ran to the street to watch the children walk by. It was clear Aubrey longed to be a part of that group.
Through program support, Aubrey has returned to school. His mother is relieved of the overwhelming burden of school fees. Aubrey now has the same opportunities as his peers. Through the child sponsorship program and the generosity of people like you the barriers that prevented Aubrey from attending school are removed, helping to pave the way toward a brighter future for him and his family!
Give Now to Support a Child in Need