A Thanksgiving Letter from Andy Corley, PFI President & CEO

Dear PFI Family,

There are some lovely video compilations on the internet of families being reunited with their loved ones after being separated. It doesn’t matter if the person returning is male or female, what their skin colour, ethnicity, or tribe are, whether they are in the military or a grandparent, the joy of receiving a loved one home is a deeply resonant and emotional thing to experience or to observe.

So universal are the emotions this evokes that at the south end of the upper level of the iconic St. Pancras railway station in London stands a huge statue that beautifully captures the moment. The Meeting Place is a nine-metre-high (30 ft), 20-tonne bronze sculpture of glorious emotive art that depicts a couple embracing after separation.

As I watched one of these video compilations recently, I was reminded of a time when I was parted from my daughter for two weeks when she was four years old. Each night I rang home, and each night Abby cried – heart-breaking for a dad who was 50% of her naming committee (Abigail Amy means “father’s joy; beloved”). It was late when I eventually arrived home, and though the children were sleeping, I went in to kiss the daughter I had missed so much. But as I kissed Abby’s forehead she woke up. After a flustered couple of seconds she realised this was not a dream; dad was actually home. She gasped, yelled my name and wildly flung her arms around my neck without letting go.

I will never forget that moment.

We know every child with an incarcerated parent faces the pain of this loss and separation, and it can be deeply damaging. So much so that we have made the visiting of parents a vital component of the Children of Prisoners Program. The results have been outstanding. And many of the other national ministries who do not run the program hold “relationship events” inside or outside prison that have the same healing and restorative impact.

Jesus told many stories about moments just like this in parables like the prodigal son or the loving Father (take your pick), the lost coin, or the 100th sheep. The outcome is the reuniting of formerly estranged people, and the dominant inspiration and loving genius behind the reuniting is God himself. The wayward son is me…and you…and the prisoner.

This year has been a challenge for all of us. And even though we prepared for many situations, far more have surprised and stressed us. But as I look back at 2020, what I am most thankful for is God’s love and faithfulness and the courage we gained despite the confusion. God has come closer to us, often through your faithful support; He has enabled our ministries to better serve the needs of prisoners and their families in ways they wouldn’t have otherwise considered had it not been for the pandemic.

Thank you for partnering with us this year. We have seen God’s love, care, and provision, and I trust you have too. I am deeply grateful for your generosity. It is your support that enables us to provide the hope and good news of God’s love to those who are often ostracized and overlooked.

And all this is worth giving thanks for.

Happy Thanksgiving,

Andy Corley
President & CEO
Prison Fellowship International