July 29, 2019, 5:28 pm
During a church service this past weekend, a young man, in his twenties and already serving his second prison sentence, was brought to the front of the auditorium and prayed for by prisoner leaders in the service. He is nearing the end of his sentence and will be released from prison within the next several days. Although this was not a particularly unique occasion–we collectively pray for a lot of men right before they leave prison–this particular young man and his situation made an impression on me.
When the young man came forward, he shared a few thoughts before the men prayed for him. He confessed that he is an active gang member, but then shared that this identity had led him to believe that one day he would die in the streets. When he returned to prison on this second bit (prison sentence), his homeboys and fellow gang members began to notice something different in him. They remarked that he was different, that he didn’t seem the same. Yes, he was still a gang member, but somehow he seemed like he had hope now for his future. And then he told us why.
After he was sentenced, he said, his mother told him that God had a plan and future for his life. She shared with him Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil to give you a future and a hope.” Holding onto this promise, this young man said that he now prays daily for his own future, claiming this promise for his own. His mother’s love and her own hopes for his future led to a change in thinking in his life.
Honestly, I don’t know if this young man will fall back into his old ways or not. He certainly face some pretty tough obstacles and peer pressures when he leaves prison. But when everyone else, including society in general, has given up on him, his mother has not. Instead, she passed on her own faith and hope for his future, inspiring him to grasp them for his own. What she gave him empowered him to dare to think that there might be more for him than gang banging and prison life.
Many prisoners are not as fortunate as this young man. They do not have people in their corner believing in them. They do not have someone inspiring hope for their future. Everyone has given up on them, and society has given them a new identity, stripped of hope. Sometimes a person’s crime is so bad that he becomes a leper, and he is written off as worthless and irredeemable. Sometimes a person simply came from nothing, never had anyone rooting for them, and has no future to look forward to. These odds make it likely that such a person will return to prison, fulfilling the expectations society has set for him. But, mercifully, some will beat the odds.
Many of you, my readers, have loved ones in prison. Others of you work with or minister to people in prison. You deal closely with brokenness, and sometimes what you do can be discouraging. You pour yourselves and your hope into broken people, and sometimes those broken people stay stuck in their brokenness. But sometimes they don’t. Sometimes your investment in time, your many prayers, your words of encouragement, fall on the soil of a ready heart. Sometimes we embrace the hope you have for us, make it our own, and are inspired to make changes in our lives. Sometimes that inspiration overflows, and we share it with others, too.
So, don’t be discouraged. Keep planting your seeds of hope. Keep watering with words of encouragement. We all need to feel hope for our futures, and many of us, like this young man, need someone to plant that hope in us.
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The opinions expressed within posts and comments are solely those of each author, and are not necessarily those of Women Against Registry. Women Against Registry reserves the right to edit or delete any content submitted.