Best practices are specific, discrete ministry activities that measurably increase program scale, effectiveness, and/or efficiency, and can be replicated by other National Ministries. Best practices should be supported by evidence (data).
Volunteers are NM’s hands and feet in prisons and communities. Prison work is often decentralized work – prisons and prisoners’ families are scattered throughout the country. Having volunteers in close proximity to them, checking on them, engaging them, and reporting on the activities allows your National Ministry to grow effectively and efficiently. Another benefit to engaging volunteers in reporting is that it promotes ownership among them.
The Wonder Mary Beheld in the Face of Jesus, Emmanuel
There is one thing above all I need to do in my life. That is to focus on the Lord Jesus!
Science fiction is my favorite movie genre. Its mixture of imagination and future possibilities enthrall me. But as Christmas approaches and I reflect on Jesus’s birth, I realise that no science fiction writer could ever match the reality of God becoming flesh and dwelling among us! Emmanuel – God with us! This is true wonder and mystery beyond imagination and certainly beyond full comprehension!
As a young Christian I understood that I needed to be taught well by God’s Word. To have sound doctrine. However, I also understood the importance of retaining my sense of wonder. Of remembering that I am a created being and not the Creator and that however much I strive, perhaps throughout my whole life, I will never understand God completely.
He is Infinite and I am but a finite, created being.
Therefore, in this season of Advent, I am once again reminded and filled with wonder at the amazing truth, that God became man!
As Madeleine L’Engle says in her poem, “After Annunciation:”
This is the irrational season
when love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
there’d have been no room for the child.
God becoming man defies reason! For ages, men and women gazed into the heavens to contemplate infinity. And suddenly, 2,000 years ago, in a baby, the finite became capable of the infinite (finitum capax infiniti) and in a little child born to Mary in a stable in Bethlehem, God could be touched and handled!
As Paul contemplated the nature of Jesus, his birth, death, resurrection and ascension, he says in Colossians 1:15, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For By Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or power. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”
He was upholding all things while He was in his mother, Mary’s, womb. He was upholding all things while Mary gazed at His little face, in awe and wonder, for she knew what a miracle His birth was and Who He was!
That is a narrative more amazing than any science fiction story!
I want to thank each and every one of you for what you are doing in your National Ministries and in the PFI Family. I applaud you for all you work. And as you serve, I ask you to focus on Jesus, to think of Mary’s sense of wonder as she gazed into the face of the child she bore, and beheld the face of God the Son, who was holding all things together and consider this:
In each inmate we serve, we serve Jesus.
“When I was in prison, you came to ME,” said Jesus.
Similarly to Mary, we get the privilege of seeing Jesus in the face of those whom we reach out to, to serve. This is the privilege you and I get – to partner with God Himself in the work He is doing, and to experience Him in a deeply mysterious way in and through those we serve.
My favourite Christmas hymn is “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” Recently I discovered a little known verse that is sometimes included as verse 4, which I quote below for you:
Where children pure and happy
Pray to the blessed Child,
Where misery cries out to Thee,
Son of the Mother mild;
Where Charity stands watching
And Faith holds wide the door,
The dark night wakes, the glory breaks,
And Christmas comes once more.
Prisons are some of the darkest places on the planet. We are the light and we carry The Light which brings life, restoration and restoration to prisoners and their families, their children. And likewise, in a mysterious way, those in prison minister the presence of Christ Jesus to us in return. Our work thus has deeply meaningful and purposeful dimensions to it, some of which cannot be measured.
I encourage you to have more faith (conviction of things hoped for) dear friends. When we are connected to the Infinite, by faith, all things are possible. God promised of the Child who was born on that Christmas night 2000 years ago, “Of the increase of His Government and peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:7) Remember, we are His by His grace, and He is the winning side forevermore. The ‘hopes and fears of all the years” really did meet in Him that night.
Have a blessed Christmas and a fruit-full and wonder-full year in 2022 in your personal lives and ministry.
I appreciate you all.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” — Isaiah 9:6-7
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