Prayer, Perseverance and Purpose: Learnings from PF Ukraine’s Prayer Breakfast

I have recently returned from a wonderful visit to Ukraine. The invitation came because PF Ukraine, in the face of real adversity, has shown itself to be a partner of great value to the justice ministry there. As a result, PFU Executive Director Vyacheslav Kogut and his team were co-sponsors of a prayer breakfast comprised of prison governors, military personnel, faith leaders, and many others besides.  

All persons attending gathered around the person of Jesus and were committed to prayer in the midst of their current circumstances. I had the privilege of reminding them that the greatest power in our universe is God’s love for those he has created.  

The indefatigable spirit of the PFU leaders, supporters and volunteers was inspiring and challenging in equal measure. Their commitment to service and impact was undefeated by external circumstances which they were not in control of. The things they offered in response were hard work, perseverance and a hope for the future. Their work is astounding.  

Many of the national ministries in our PFI family face challenges, yet our teams around the world continue to give of their best. We continue to see God surprise us and, in every way, move through the work we are doing, as we serve the prisoners of our world, doing justice, loving mercy and walking humbly with our God who is a Father to us all. 

We are inspired and empowered by the greatest power that our world can encounter: the unconditional love of our creator, a God who affirms to every human being that they are His image bearers, who revealed Himself, 2,000 years ago, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. 

The lengths he went to prove His love and commitment to us were extraordinary. He faced an unjust, cruel death alongside two known criminals, one of whom He assured with His dying breath, would be with Him in paradise that very day. He then descended into Hell, the place of death and imprisonment, and spectacularly emerged in victory. 

Prisons and tombs are everywhere around us and within us: physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual. They are all places of death. But no matter how far we fall from displaying His image (living in tombs and prisons, either of our own making or not), God makes it clear that we are loved unconditionally and that His offer to all is freedom and resurrection life. 

Psalm 68:6 tells us that “He leads out the prisoner to prosperity,” maybe better puts as “He leads out the prisoner to fullness of every kind”. It is the kind of work that God is expert in. In my work, I am privileged to see His transformation in lives all over the world. From prison to freedom, fullness and wholeness.   

The Ukrainian people represent something that is deep within those that God has created. Galatians 5:1 says, “It was for freedom that Christ has set us free.” You could say it is in the DNA of all of us, that a God who is love, desires for us to be free and is in charge of our universe is worth remembering when circumstances arise against us in this life.  

I do not believe history and eternity will be on the side of those who seek to usurp the kingdom He launched on resurrection Sunday, 2,000 years ago. Our world changed on that resurrection day, for good. Nothing is the same from now on. At the name of Jesus every knee must bow. 

We have the privilege in this life and today of embracing this God of love and author of life, while praying and embodying, “Your kingdom come and your will be done be done on earth as in heaven.” Our scripture tells us He listens and moves in response. 

In the dark physical prisons of the world, the institutional prisons of injustice and oppression, and in the fearful dark prisons of my heart, Jesus Christ is present and brings His Words of life 

I was reminded of this fact in the chapel inside Boroslav prison with its large iconic artwork of Christ Pantokrator. There he was, His right hand raised in blessing, His left holding the Good News of who He is, why he came and what that means for us. 

This is why I believe our work is holy. We remind those in the prison of the world, and simultaneously ourselves, of these truths in practice and words. That we are image- bearing, affirmed, forgiven; That we can be and are continuously being restored and transformed by Him. 

It is why I am fond of saying, “We don’t take Jesus into prison. We follow Him in and meet Him there. 

And lastly, from my heart I say and to the all-powerful God whose name is Jesus: May the Lord bless you and protect you. May He make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May He lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. 

Revitalizing Families, Restoring Hope

It is beyond dispute that, in the Bible, the family has been one of God’s key institutional designs for blessing our world. Right back to the garden of Eden, where human beings are encouraged to multiply and fill the earth, it has been families that have achieved this God-given goal. God is the author, giver and sustainer of life. Period. And families are His design.

By describing the family as an institution, my meaning is something structurally beneficial to society endowed by someone or something. I passionately believe this is what families can, often are and should be. Who would deny that, at their best, families are places of love, security, provision, and mutual flourishing and benefit? It is true that, because we are all broken and in need of healing in our lives, no family is perfect. Countless popular books have been written with on variations on the theme of “my family history and how I survived it.”

Yet, many quality academic studies affirm that a strong, cohesive family is still the most robust and best communal building block we have. Those of us who are privileged to have been brought up in a positive, healthy environment like this should be perpetually grateful to God, our parents and even our siblings.

Sadly, our world is also full of family break up and disruption, especially in the prisons of our world. Go into almost any prison and talk to men (more than 90% of those in prison are men) and you encounter the same story again and again. Absent fathers producing absent fathers is like a mathematical equation with the same result each time, as the playground to prison pathway is trodden again and again with all its relational vandalism and violence. A crying shame and a seemingly endless cycle of curse and criminality.

But when fighting off darkness, it is better to light a candle than to simply curse the lack of light. It is in this spirit that I commend this edition of Touchstone to you. Things can be done to change this state of affairs. This issue is rich with meaningful interventions that can help break this cycle.

The work being done throughout the world in our national ministries for the children and families of prisoners is so beautiful and varied. There are so many stunning examples of healing and restoration for the orphans and widow of incarceration.

PFI’s signature programs, both behind bars and with families, also add to the mix and result in blessing to individuals, families and then on into community as dark ripple effects are disrupted by light.

We can be the Grace of God, Kingdom ambassadors and agents of transformation. I know I’m writing to brothers and sisters who give themselves, often selflessly, to this work. Work that is often hard and challenging. But this work, this investment in nurturing and strengthening the bonds between family members that have been strained and torn by incarceration, is an investment in one of God’s primary ways of blessing the world.

But let’s be assured our work is always worth it:

“We live in such a way that no one will stumble because of us, and no one will find fault with our ministry. In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense.” 2 Corinthians 6:3-4, 6-7 NLT

May God richly bless you and continue to empower you through His love.

Lines, Circles and Spirals: Growing and Returning to Forever Truths

Last year, my wife Andrea and I were given a gift of a page from an original King James Version Bible containing my favorite verse — Colossians 1:10. It’s an appeal to “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.” This verse has been a wonderful orientation in my life — deeply helpful as I have sought for meaning and purpose, as well as providing an internal gyroscope for the good and the noble.

I am particularly drawn to the final encouragement to grow in the knowledge of God because it implies flourishing and expansion in a linear direction. The natural world is full of examples of growth of this kind. Upwards, outwards and inwards. This is most spectacularly revealed to us at this time of year in the northern hemisphere, when flowers, trees and shrubs of all kinds begin to bud and flower.

I think it’s safe to say that linear growth (in three dimensions) is one of the most commonly observed phenomena in our world.

However, I’m acutely aware that my life also has cyclical elements to it, which are deeply helpful as I grow. One example of a cyclical element is the celebration of key events, birthdays, anniversaries and commemorative events like feasts. Reminders of vital events that have occurred in the past, but which are worth remembering for the future.

In the life of a believer in Jesus Christ, one of the most important of these is Easter, which returns each year full of the deepest meaning, significance and hope for our lives now and in the forever future.

At first sight, a line and a circle are clearly different. Yet, there is a three-dimensional form which combines a line and a circle, which is a spiral coil.

It seems to me that in the Christian life, this is a helpful visual illustration. God commends to us linear growth (in the knowledge of who He is and in being conformed to the image of His Son) and also a regular return to fundamental and forever truths (“Do this in remembrance of me”) that comprise our faith.

This spiral coil helps us to visualise how we can both grow and yet return to these events with ever-increasing wonder and appreciation.

So, may God richly bless you this Easter and may you return to the event that changed our world forever 2,000 years ago with a new awesome wonder. To appreciate again how the sacrifice of love that His death and resurrection demonstrated has changed our lives forever, and to embrace the flourishing that God has designed for His children who understand the power of this good news to heal, reconcile and transform.

A message which we have received first ourselves and are privileged to share with those who are in prison, their families and victims.


Andy Corley

Finding Meaning in the Storm

Of late, I have increasingly enjoyed contemplating iconic art. Like the written word, art can accomplish the creation of new thoughts that are helpful in the development of realizing what it means to be more fully human. 

For instance, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in his classic book The Gulag Archipelago, said “Bless you prison, bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul.”

Recently, I have spoken on multiple occasions about the icon pictured above, which represents Christ and the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. 

The events shown are recounted to us in Luke’s account of the crossing of the Sea of Galilee, when the storm and the waves embattled the boat that Jesus and the disciples were in. This particular depiction of the story linked two events that I had not previously connected in my mind. The first was the statement of Jesus that they were going to the other side of the lake, and the second was the freeing of the demon possessed, broken man in chains (a metaphor for those in prison if ever there was one) being the very reason for the journey in the first place. 

The purpose of the journey appears to have been to intervene in this man’s life, to bring healing, restoration and freedom to him. The storm can be viewed as a conspiring of external circumstances, causing a very real challenge to this activity. And yet, the creator of the universe, our Savior, was and is steadfastly committed to His liberation activity.  

I was also struck by the way that, from time to time, I can insert myself into several of the characters in the picture. At times, I am the fearful disciple in the boat, questioning whether God cares. At times, I am Peter, stepping out on the water in faith, temporarily successful and then sinking. At times, I am the prisoner who needs rescuing. And at times, in Christ, I am privileged to be the one who can minister redemptive activity. Sometimes a picture really is worth 1,000 words. 

Whichever character you identify with right now, it is a stunning fact that God dwells within us by his Holy Spirit and in Him, we live and breathe, and have our being. 

Regardless of our circumstances, it does not get much better than that. I pray as you read this Touchstone article, that the God of all hope would fill you hearts and minds with a revelation of who He is and how much He has done for us and is for us in life. Enjoy the ride amongst the waves, with the picture in your mind’s eye. 

Your brother,


God’s Gift of Hope

I was a late addition and very grateful that I was invited to the party. The purpose: a clay pigeon shoot. The venue: a stately home. The host: a member of one England’s great historic families. And best of all, my fellow guests were the most eclectic group of men you could hope to meet.

The existing friendships were genuine and deep, formed in life’s trenches of challenging circumstance. Newcomers like myself were made welcome, making the possibility of new friendship highly likely. No surprises therefore that conversations were rich, real, informed and varied.

As different individuals spoke about where life’s journey had taken them and what they were now doing, the honesty and reality led to our conversation occasionally becoming dark, and at times hope-less.

Not the hopelessness of apathy or frivolity or shallowness. Rather, the hopelessness formed by personal experience of life’s complexities meeting faith — where an easier path of simply following biblical rules and statutes would be desirable but not available, where wisdom and courage were both required as a response to a need.

At several points, I found myself thanking God for some of the men present, especially those who had made real sacrifices at great personal risk to serve others.

I retired to bed at 1:30 in the morning on the first night and laid awake for another hour as I chewed on the conversation and the Stilton cheese — it was that stimulating and challenging.

It caused me to reflect on the role that hope plays in my life and how much of my worldview, heart and mind posture and resulting action is framed by the gift of hope.

I cannot imagine a world without hope.

That gift of hope originates in God from whom every good gift derives.

Hope, as revealed in the Scriptures, is based in the character of our God, who, with all authority and power in His universe, is working out His good plans and purposes.

In this sense, hope is directional in that it will culminate in time, and — because of its origin — is guaranteed. Origin determines destiny, especially given the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth (God in flesh) and the work He undertook during His life, death, resurrection and ascension.

The good news for us is that His ongoing work, now at the right hand of the Father, is bringing this plan into reality. The astounding news is that He chooses to involve us in this work too.

This revelation was the stuff of missional communication and drive for the disciples, the early church and for all true believers since. There is a new King in town, forever.

It validates us, our human-ness and our work. Our co-operation with the King really matters on every level.

This reality — the fact that God in the person of Jesus is in charge — has been captured in art form of all types, but especially in the icon of Christ Pantokrator. He loves us. He forgives us completely. He is with us, for us and by His spirit lives in us, forever.

“Jesus Christ, detail from Deesis mosaic, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul” by Edal Anton Lefterov licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Our world and the mission field we have been specifically called to is facing tremendous upheavals of all sorts. There is fear and uncertainty on every level. Few of us will be immune to the impacts in our personal lives, families and communities. And yet, there He is: King of the universe, hand raised in blessing, in fulfillment of the hope of the ages.

No thing, no circumstance and no one can alter that or defeat Him in what He has done. His accomplishment is no less than a new creation.

Our privilege is to proclaim and practice this good news, especially in the dark places of prisons, where hope can be in short supply.

In 2023, I intend and pray that I might be an ambassador of hope, wherever I can, including this first 2023 Touchstone introduction.

May the bolded encouragement be a best practice transfer for all of us.

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder.” Romans 15:13-15, NLT