Prison is a very lonely place even if you get visits, letters, and have someone who will accept your collect calls. When that doesn’t happen, it’s an entirely different experience. There is a large number of inmates who have burned so many bridges before they went to prison, they have lost contact with the people they were closest to.
It’s a very painful thing to get a letter back with RETURN TO SENDER stamped in red ink. It’s heartbreaking to hear the operator ask, ‘Will you accept a collect call from John Doe?’ only to hear the voice you recognize so well on the other end say, ‘No!’. These same inmates never get a visit. They sometimes are on the prison yard within view of the visiting area and have to watch as other inmates spend time with family and friends. The following poem was written by one of those lonely inmates:
Darkness and loneliness fill my cell,
With pain and fear too great to tell.
As I wait for the mailman to deliver to me,
As I wipe away tears so no one will see,
I pray so sincere with head raised above.
Please, God, soon a letter of love.
I long to gaze upon pages so dear,
With riches to bring my loved ones near.
Words of diamonds on pages of gold,
A message from heaven as their story is told;
We love you, miss you, pray you’ll be free.
A treasure-filled envelope just for me.
Please bring memories of joys I once knew;
Family, friends, and things I would do.
The darkness and pain of my cell will prevail,
As my name, again, was not called for mail.
by Arlen A. Atkinson
You may be saying about now that they deserve what they got because of what they did to others. The Bible says we reap what we sow. I agree. But I also know that God is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish. Aren’t we glad that He forgives?
Jesus says, remember those in prison as though you were in prison with them (Hebrews 13:3). When I walk up to an inmate’s cell door and say, ‘Would you like to visit for a few minutes?’, I am very rarely turned down. Occasionally, I end up staying for a couple of hours in front of one of those lonely cells. Sometimes, in order to talk face to face, I have to kneel down and look through the food slot. Those are the most awesome of times.
The Word says that the fields are ripe for harvest, but the laborers are few (John 4:35). As someone once told a friend of mine, Tom Buttram, on one of his visits to Haiti, ‘You can’t reach them all, but you can make a difference’.
I am looking for volunteers who will co-labor with me to make a difference. There are several ways you can do this: by committing to pray, helping through a financial gift, or physically going with me to prison. If you are looking for a way to impact others, this could be it. Maybe you are not able to, or have a desire to actually go into prisons, but if God would lay it on your heart to help in one of the other ways, would you consider it?
In HIS grip,
II Corinthians 5:17