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Letters from Prison
by Stafford North
My wife, Jo Anne, has been involved in jail/prison ministry for more than thirty years. As I often joke, she has done more “jail time” than lots of criminals. During that time she has taught classes behind bars, gone to the jail to see many one-on-one, and worked with a host of women after their release. The prison office keeps a list of those she has taught and each Christmas she sends one of our family Christmas cards and a letter to those for whom she has an address—mostly those still behind bars. I share a few of these responses to show how the gospel and those who teach it can bless the lives of many.
These replies come from women still in prison—some recently put in prison, some long term inmates. The card she had sent them was one picturing us with nine great grandchildren. These replies were touching in many ways and they tell the story of good news.
One woman wrote: “O Dear Sister in Christ. God is surely good indeed! Your precious card and letter surely brought tears to my eyes and such warmth and love to my spirit. It is the first and only letter that I have received since I have been here and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart. . . . I am so surprised to hear from you. Surely I never thought you would remember me because I don’t even hear from my own family. So, believe me, your letter was a ray of sunshine to me and I really want to thank you. . . . This will be my first Christmas without my family and friends. I’ve never been without them and it makes it very hard for me. Keep me in your prayers.”
Another wrote: “It was such a pleasure to receive your beautiful Christmas card. I someday hope to be surrounded by my lovely grandchildren and praising God for each one. I received four Christmas cards this year but none were from my family. At least my family in Christ has taken the time to send me encouragement for the New Year to come. As a grandma and one needing to have forgiveness from my children, I pray to be surrounded someday by my grandchildren and your card gave me hope and encouragement knowing that I serve a mighty God.”
From another came this message: “Your letter touched my heart this year and tears stung my eyes while reading what you wrote, especially the part about . . . ‘remember back to your own baptism and renew your dedication and zeal toward the Lord and his church.’ If you could see just some of the goodness the Lord our God has extended toward me and the help of his amazing presence in my life you would be so encouraged. . . . For almost 6 years you have been a part of my life, writing me every year at Christmas time and sharing your life with me. How amazing. Thank you for your work of love and joy in His salvation. Soon I will be leaving prison but I will not be leaving the Lord because He is the hope of my life.”
Another wrote: “I was so happy to hear from you. I want to thank you for your obedience to the Lord and for having a heart for someone like me. You had a great part in my decision to make Jesus Christ the Lord of my life. . . . I take everything a day at a time and try to stay Jesus focused. “ After saying she will leave prison with an associate degree in business and a license in cosmetology, she says, “I could have never done that without God and it all started in the county jail where I met you. . . . Thank you for sending me your love and I hope I have done the same.”
Finally, this note: “I have been doing good, keeping in the Word and building a better and closer relationship with our Lord. It’s amazing how much better I feel when I read the Bible and pray regularly. . . . I’m still a newborn Christian, trying to work on the things I need to do to become a better person all around, not just for myself but also for my two daughters and for those around me.”
These heartfelt notes show how God wants us to use whatever opportunities lie before us to share His message with those in all kinds of situations and they demonstrate how the gospel not only gives hope for the life to come but can make life better here, even in difficult circumstances.