Every time we publish another issue of The Messianic Times, we “visit” hundreds of prisoners across the USA and Canada. Our newspaper is sent to many individual inmates and chaplains. We do this to provide solace to multitudes of incarcerated souls. Sadly, this tends to be a neglected ministry, because there is no money in it.
However, we know our free papers are passed around again and again to people who have time to read every article. Frequently, they notice an advertisement by the International Messianic Jewish Alliance, with whom we have a strategic partnership agreement. The IMJA offers a free copy of The Fig Tree Blossoms, written by myself in 1975. It is a primary book, explaining our Messianic vision for both Jews and Gentiles. Between these two sister organizations, there is contact with thousands of jailed individuals. As many as 20% of those who contact us are Jewish. About half of these are believers, while many others are only inquirers.
Prisoners are also sent an organized course of learning, which lays out the foundations of our faith, the assurance of salvation, and precepts about living an abundant life as a believer in the Messiah. These people have time to study, ponder and pray.
Recently, the group who publishes the discipleship program we distribute has ceased to operate. We could simply discontinue this aspect of our prisoner service, but another idea occurs to us. Why don’t we publish our own materials?
For this, we need sponsorship. The IMJA is willing to participate financially, but this project needs a broader base of support. The extent of the undertaking is, in size and quantity of course, dependent upon how many people will partner with us. Having a formal course of study, sponsored by the Messianic movement, could affect many souls. We think this could be instrumental in many receiving the Lord and others returning from a neglected walk with Yeshua (Jesus).
The number of prisoners in the USA alone is approximately two million people. Our society all but denies their existence. They are caged and numbered. Oh, but that there would be a better way than the denigrating humiliation piled on top of being removed from society.
We tend to think of the incarcerated as never being released, but most are eventually returned to society. Isn’t paying attention to their spiritual welfare a help in minimizing their repetitive return to a degraded life? In this way, we can care for their souls and provide nourishment. Yeshua (Jesus), reading from Isaiah 61 in Luke 4:18-19…
“He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners…to rescue the oppressed…”
Please pray with us about adding your strength to such an effort. Although we will not be physically present with these men and women, we will be visiting them through the mail. Help us to give more!
Each and every week, we receive letters back from inmates, confirming to us why this is such an important outreach. These recipients of our publications express great appreciation, and we hear of many becoming born again and having their lives changed.
Years ago, I used to preach in the seven chapels at Otay Prison, just outside of San Diego on Sundays. Looking out at the audience, you could easily tell who was there for spiritual refreshment and who simply wanted reprieve from time in their cell. The Jewish men really wanted to develop a relationship with me. Some were believers, but many were not.
That’s when I become aware of an evangelism that takes place in these dark places. Bible believers, who live out their faith, are noticed and the Word is spread.
Often times, pamphlets distributed on street corners are thrown away. But to those behind bars, our materials are of significant value. Forsaken and forgotten souls are provided with truth, comfort and ministry.
We have all heard about prison gangs. We don’t hear much about their fellowship among believers. Usually leaving a gang is prohibited, often times, under penalty of death. One man told me he was a part of a gang, but had become born again. So, he went to his gang leader and told him of his new faith and asked to be killed immediately or be allowed to leave the group. The gang leader saw he was for real and let him go. If he had been faking, he would have been murdered.
Prisoners can measure a man and spot a phony. Quite often in prison, there is a steep price to pay for committing to the Gospel. Yet, we believe strongly in ministering to those who are imprisoned physically and bound up spiritually. We can play an instrumental role in transforming their lives. We will not see the fruit of this work, until we pass from this life. I like to think of it as “a pure good”.