“I was in prison and you came to visit Me.”
“JL, I just thought I would send you this article I read in one of our
weekend newspapers on the conditions inside our prisons which
shows why the project we are embarking upon is so needed and
will make a positive contribution in rehabilitating offenders.”
(Bishop Trevor Manhanga)
Dear Ministry Partners,
One of the specific six “good works” that Jesus said each of us would be both judged and rewarded on was our ministry to those in prison. The headlines above, from a daily newspaper in Zimbabwe, show the gravity of the need for authentic prison ministry - whether in America, Africa, Asia, or any country of the world. Most prisons are “hell holes” of sin, depravity, violence, disease, addiction, sexual perversion, neglect, abuse, abandonment and hopelessness. All the more reason why Jesus said His followers should be involved there as His “salt” and “light.”
Jesus made it crystal clear that there would one day be a “great separation” of all the nations and peoples of the world “….as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” As a result of this “sovereign separation,” God will “…put the sheep on His right and the goats on his left” (Matthew 25:33).
Because of the temporal and eternal significance of this teaching from the lips of the Lord Jesus, every Christian should read this entire passage regularly. It is a clear touchstone to help us evaluate the priorities by which we live. One day each of us will be a part of this eternal separation that will lead to indescribable joy or unimaginable horror. And it will all be based on the intentional choices we made as Christians as to how we would invest our time, talents, treasure and technology in this life.
“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” (Matthew 25:35-39).
No needs are more basic in our fallen and rebellious world than positively, proactively and practically ministering the love and compassion of Christ to people who are hunger…thirsty…strangers…poorly clothed…sick…in prison.
To those of us who did what we could to meet such basic needs, Jesus will say: “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). Note the invitation and reward: “Come…inherit…enjoy!”
Conversely, those who intentionally did NOT try and meet those needs, the Heavenly Shepherd will say: “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…then they will go away to eternal punishment…” (Matthew 25:41). Here the summary and the sentencing are too terrible to contemplate: “Depart…cursed…go away to eternal punishment.”
Jesus further personalized this ministry to Himself through the ministry to others in need by saying: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me” (Matthew 25:40). As a result, the “…righteous will go into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46b).
From the very earliest days of the ministry of “The New Directions,” we were always proactive in prison ministry. Almost every weekend we did some kind of outreach in prisons, in conjunction with our ministry in local churches. This led to thousands making decisions for Christ, and participating in follow-up discipleship programs.
So, it is with a sense of joy, excitement and humility that I share through this report the launch of a new prisoner rehabilitation program in Zimbabwe, Africa.
Several years ago when I was ministering with Bishop Trevor Manhanga, he made me aware of a large prison near his church that had requested help. After we met with the prison officials on a subsequent trip, we began to work out the details of this daily work release program. Here is the summary:
BUDGET PRISONER REHIBILATION PROJECT
(START-UP CAPITAL INVESTMENTS)
MONTHLY OPERATIONAL COSTS
(FOR INITIAL PERIOD OF 12 MONTHS)
TOTAL MONTHLY OPERATIONAL COST US$ 2,486
(*) A special savings account will be set up for each inmate so when they are released, they will have some money with which to start over again.
By God’s grace and through the generosity of partners like you, we were able to send the initial start-up funds to launch this ministry. It officially began this past Monday, February 8th. Below are some of the pictures from the inauguration of this program that will be life changing for the prison population of both male and female inmates.
The 15 inmates arrived at Victory Center for orientation, accompanied by the
prison guards. The program participants include male and female inmates.
Upon their arrival, Bishop Trevor and his staff welcomed them, and led in the first session of their daily devotional times. As Bishop Trevor shared from II Cor. 5:17 about being “new creations in Christ,” they broke out into applause and shouted “Amen!”
After his brief teaching and words of encouragement, they entered into a time of singing, worship and prayer…
The inmates enjoyed their first morning "tea time" that
will be a part of their daily schedule.
Each inmate was given a new set of “work clothes” and “rubber boots” to wear daily as they work on the various projects.
The inmates give a round of applause, and the prison official
expresses appreciation to Bishop Trevor for the program.
The men and women are welcomed by the Victory Tabernacle staff for their first
day of work.
As the day began, the inmates were given a walking tour of the Victory Center
that we have helped Bishop Trevor develop. They were shown the area where they
will work each day on some of the self-support projects at the Center.
Since the guards will be with the inmates every day, they will also be the
beneficiaries of this program.
Some will be trained in the chicken operation.
Some, especially the women inmates, will work in the new greenhouse we put
up on our last visit.
One inmate has experience in tractor driving, so he will help us with that area.
Others will be trained in Hydraform brick-making with the machine we bought
for Bishop Trevor several years ago.
By the time they finish this one-year training program, these men and women will have been transformed spiritually, socially and vocationally, and be able to reenter society with a skill to support themselves.
Because we had previously taken Solar Digital Players in the Shona language over to Bishop Trevor, he was able to present one to each of the guards and prison officials. On my next trip, I will be taking over players for all of the inmates so they can listen to God’s Word in their heart language as they work. We hope that many of you will help sponsor these players at the subsidized price of $25 each.
As I conclude this report to you, it brings to my mind the fact that one of my earliest books, Life Steps, (pictured left) was written as a Bible Study Course for new Christians – but especially for prison inmates. All of the original illustrations were done by our friend and former prison inmate, Larry Clapp. We shared this book as a means of follow-up and discipleship, and it was distributed throughout many prisons in America. The need for the book and discipleship course ultimately evolved into a full time ministry of NDI, headed by Larry Clapp.
I have recently revised and expanded Life Steps into a more contemporary format for re-release in the next several months (pictured right). Please be praying with us for its printing and release very soon. I will be taking copies of the new addition to each of these inmates on my next trip to Zimbabwe in the spring. So, the book has come full circle!
Thanks again for the privilege of partnering with you through prayer and finances in the sponsorship of this Prison Rehabilitation Program in Zimbabwe, Africa. I will send you further reports of how these men and women are being transformed spiritually, socially and vocationally under the leadership of Bishop Trevor and his staff.
For His “new creations in Christ Jesus,”