For the past two years Love In Action has been expanding its reach to further obey everything Jesus says in Matthew 25:35-36, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
For more than 11 years we have been providing food, drink, clothes and shelter for the homeless and poor. This past year we have started helping with health care issues and taking care of the sick through the Love In Action Health Care Clinic for the Homeless.
But today I want to look at the part about "I was in prison and you came to visit me."
Jesus loves and cares about everyone, from the homeless to the rich. In this verse He shows his concern for those in prison as well.
We started working with the men and women at Houston County Community Corrections Work Release more than two years ago when I was asked if they could come to our Bible study. That began a wonderful new ministry of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those incarcerated and showing them His great love.
We took it a level higher when we started Celebrate Recovery Inside. We have a busload of men and women each week attend CRI, and we are seeing so many lives being changed.
This year as we have been renovating the Love In Action Ministry Center we have been picking up 10 men every Saturday to help us with the renovations. Without these guys we would not be as far along as we are.
Most of them are very talented in areas of carpentry, dry wall, painting, flooring and plumbing. We also have a lot of fun on Saturdays as we work. But to me, it is about a lot more than accomplishing the renovations. Saturdays really give me a chance to mentor and speak into their lives. I enjoy that.
On Wednesday nights we usually have between 10-15 men at Bible study, not always the same group of guys as some have to work on Wednesday nights. We have seen many accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and we enjoy watching each of them grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
We have seen God answer many prayers in their lives, from jobs to healing. We love these men and want to see them all succeed and never go back to jail when they are free again.
These guys are like all of us. At some point in our lives we needed a second chance. These guys are learning that through Jesus Christ, they have another chance at getting it right, and many of them are. Within the past two weeks we have seen two of them join Harvest Church and one of them was baptised this morning. Praise God!
About 10 of our former work release guys are members at Harvest and some are serving as ushers and driving the van to pick up the guys in work release to bring them to church. Most of these guys still come to our Wednesday night Bible study and lead small groups at our CRI. Praise God! They understand that we need to be saved, but also serve Jesus.
These men are wonderful examples to those in work release that they can turn their lives around through Jesus Christ. The ones who get connected and involved with Love In Action and their church make it.
The current group of work release men we minister to are a great group of guys. They made mistakes and are paying for it. Most of them will tell you they are thankful they got arrested, because they were heading for destruction. Today, they are learning to live in the light of Jesus Christ.
We love these men and are very thankful for them and for the change God is doing in their lives. The keys are they know that God loves them and that we do too. They often thank us for treating them like real people. Like the homeless, those serving time get treated differently. People look down at them and think they are worthless. Lies, all lies! They are of great worth. Jesus died for them too. Look at who was next to Jesus on the cross ... a thief. And, what did Jesus say to the thief when he turned to Jesus? "Today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)
Our CRI has recently gone even further. Our CRI director, Emily Hinderliter, goes every Wednesday morning to the Houston County Jail and ministers to up to 14 women. God is doing an incredible work through Emily, and these women's lives are being changed by the power of God. I will write more about this in another blog.
The thing is, God loves those who are incarcerated. They are the outcasts of society. Throughout the Bible, God shows He has a great love for those living on the fringe of society. People like the homeless, poor and incarcerated need to know that God loves them and has a better life for them. Love In Action is carrying that message to them.
Please keep us and those we serve in your prayers.