Thursday, April 28, 2011

Drug addiction, prostitution and motherhood

Poor crack cocaine user neglecting even her child for her addiction
     During my most recent visit to the jail, I met three women who admitted to drug addiction. This is something incarcerated women usually have no trouble acknowledging. How can you blame an addict for the crazy things they do?  Addiction is a ferocious task master. It drives girls who swear, " they will never"... to do things that they hang their heads and whisper about.  Things like 'selling their body" for drug money, and stealing from their family members, and begging from strangers on the street using lies to get a dollar.

    One woman admitted to being so sick she could not lift her head off the pillow for days at the crack house where she was holed up. A friend called 911 to help her. When she was released from the ER after getting help and money to buy the medicine she needed to get well, she used the money to buy more drugs. Drugs that are eating away the lining of her stomach.

    She is in jail now, but she is thankful. She will tell you she is glad to be alive and realizes that without being arrested, nothing would have stopped her. Her name is Ann* and she is 38. She learned to read and write in jail. She found God in jail, She was given her first Bible in jail. She has been arrested six times, and has a sister and a brother in prison. 

    She is looking forward to getting out. She told me on Sunday, "I am getting too old for this. I can't keep coming back in here. " She is the mother of  twin girls and one son.  She knows she has let them down and chosen crack over them. They let her know she has let them down too. Admitting this, is what makes her cry.

   Her story breaks my heart. Everyone has a story. The poet Longfellow wrote,

"If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man's life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility." 
  Each of these women has enough sorrow and suffering for ten women.

  This video clip is about Magdalene House. They are helping women in Nashville.

*names and details changed to protect identity
Photo source-

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Resurrection Day

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Romans 6:8-11


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Prison ministry started by a girl, a former attorney and judge-

Andrea Shelton's older brother Mark was convicted of a hit and run and sentenced to fifteen years in the state prison. Her love for Jesus Christ, and her brother changed her life...

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Power of Forgiveness - the victim's side of the story

This article is reprinted from Prison Fellowship's Blog- Inside Out

Seized in a dark parking lot by two men, Kelly Putty, then 16, was taken to a field and brutally sexually assaulted. In a bizarre twist, her attackers stopped to pick up one of their wives from work. Kelly pled with the woman to let her out of the car. The woman let her go and Kelly immediately ran to police. Her attackers were arrested.

The Road to Healing

As long as that night of horror lasted, Kelly’s road to healing was longer. She did her best to pretend that her life had gone back to normal. Like many survivors of sexual assault, she had a pain inside that wouldn’t go away. But her healing started when she encountered Jesus Christ.
At 17, Kelly married her boyfriend, Shane, a believer in Christ.

Her newly minted faith allowed her to relinquish the crushing emotional weight of her experience.

“I turned that whole mess over to God and started letting him carry that burden for me.”

But another hurdle waited: learning to forgive the men who had ended her innocence with their cruel and selfish choices.

Kelly read in Scripture that God tells her to forgive her enemies. She meditated on Jesus’ words on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But she didn’t feel like she could do the same. So she started praying simply for the ability to forgive those who had wounded her. It didn’t happen overnight, but—day by day and prayer by prayer—she felt the bitterness and pain draining away.

She believed that she had forgiven her attackers, but in the back of her mind, she sometimes wondered whether she really had.

Kelly’s decision to forgive was put to the test during a church service. The pastor asked each congregant to put their hand on the shoulder of someone nearby. Kelly reached forward, and then realized that the woman whose shoulder she now touched was the mother of one of her attackers. Should Kelly pray for this woman, who had appeared in court day after day in support of her rapist?

“I just found God’s strength there in that moment, and continued on and prayed for her,” remembers Kelly. “God did a work in that moment and showed me the power of forgiveness. When I made that decision, I saw her in a different light. She wasn’t the person who had sat in the courtroom supporting my attacker. I saw her heart broken over what had happened just as mine was.”

A New Perspective on Pain

Today, over 20 years after the attack, Kelly lives outside Nashville, Tennessee, with Shane. They have six children: five biological and one adopted from Ethiopia.

In 2009, the Puttys founded Ordinary Hero, a child advocacy organization whose mission, according to Kelly, “is to inspire and empower ordinary people to make an extraordinary difference in the life of a child in need.”

Kelly also speaks out about the power of forgiveness for victims. In addition to appearing on a panel at Prison Fellowship, she has shared her remarkable story on The 700 Club.

Kelly emphasizes that forgiveness does not excuse a crime, but it does release the survivor from the burden of pain and resentment.

“It’s just very freeing,” she says. “I believe that you have to come to the place of forgiveness in order to move on to God’s purpose for your life, and He can continue the work of turning that which was meant to destroy you into His good work for you.”

Though the memory of her attack still holds some pain, Kelly believes that her subsequent healing has helped make her who she is today—a confident wife, mother, photographer, and children’s advocate. She also helps other victims to see how their pain can be redeemed for God’s purposes. “I encourage everyone, especially victims, to not discount themselves because they have been through something that has scarred them, but to look deep inside themselves and see how God will use that very vulnerable moment in their life to help them relate to other victims and give them hope for their pain.”

Her experiences also help her deal with life’s smaller grievances.

“When you have to overlook someone’s huge, life-altering fault, it helps you let other things go,” she says. “I still lose patience in traffic, but God is always there to remind me of the big things.”

Hope Aglow supports the mission and message of Prison Fellowship.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Guest Post from Linda Settles of Edict House

Beloved Enemy

Nothing stirs the heart to hatred more than this—loving our enemy without the power to protect ourselves from his or her assaults. Hatred rarely exists without the precondition of love—love corrupted, love abandoned, love denied. Some say that the opposite of love is not hatred—but selfishness. I believe this is true. Therefore, some have made themselves our enemies not because they hate us, but because they are selfish. They may even love us, in a self-centered, narcissistic sort of way; all the while they abuse us, misuse us, and/or neglect our deepest needs.
How, then, do we protect our heart from harboring hatred, from nurturing seeds of bitterness, from the deep, dark, sorrow of despair when the one we love is the very person who abuses or neglects us?

How do we fulfill the command of Christ to “love our enemy”? This is a difficult question, however, it must be answered in our heart and mind, because true freedom, sweet release from our angst and hopelessness, will be found only in absolute obedience to the known will of God through His Word.

 Take the time to read the passage in Matthew 5:43-48 where Jesus instructs us to love our enemies, and you will find the pathway to peace, victory over your resentments, and joy in the one true relationship that will never use you, abuse you, or abandon you. Let’s consider this passage together. In verse 43 Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ but I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…’”.

You may say, that’s all great and good, but I can’t do it. How can I love the father who abandoned me or the mother who misused me to get her drug deal? You can do it when you understand what Jesus is really asking you to do—and you realize that His command is ultimately for your best good, because He knows what will free to you live above your pain. He guides you toward His perfect peace.

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover it was you.

 The last verse in this passage (verse 48) says, “Therefore you shall be perfect even as your father in heaven is perfect.”

I believe you will discover truths that will provide profound relief to your troubled heart if you take the time to follow with me as I explore the deeper meanings conveyed through the words of the command to love our enemies. We will look at three words: perfect, love, and bless. They may not mean what you think.

 Are you ready? Then let’s go:

1. Jesus said in verse 48 that if we do as he commands we will be ‘perfect.’ If you’re like me, your eyebrows are raised, and you are about to protest, “Me...perfect?” Just wait until you understand the deeper meaning of the word as Jesus used it in this verse. The word implies reaching maturity, as in growing up. It refers to developing virtue and integrity, you might say strength of character. Isn’t that what we all want to do? Well, the pathway to that kind of development goes straight through obedience to Jesus’ command to love our enemies.

So, it seems important then to understand exactly what it means to ‘love our enemies.’ Does it mean we give them access to our vulnerable heart, the opportunity to crush our already wounded spirit?

2. Let me ask you, does what you know of Jesus indicate to you that He would command this of you-- make you a doormat for others who want to advance their own selfish desires at your expense in the name of love? I don’t think so! I believe the kind of love Jesus requires involves respecting ourselves and others, setting appropriate boundaries (you can come this close but no closer), and refusing to be the object of another person’s sin. We love people by re-directing their behaviors, attitudes, and assumptions to the feet of Jesus Christ on the cross. He died for them and He will deal with them according to His will. Let go and let God—let Him do as He will with others and you will be free to mature into the person He designed you to be.
Finally, how can God ask us to bless our enemies? Outrageous! And yet, He does. Does this command stir up angst in your troubled soul? What are you talking about, God? How can you ask me to bless the person who falsely accused me, seduced me, abused me, or simply turned the other way while others misused me?
He can ask because He asks only for our good. He suffered all those things, and yet He gave his life for us. If we are really honest, we’ll admit that we are guilty of some of some of the very things that we hate in others. The first person this command benefits then, is ourselves, for we are often our own worst enemy.

 As we bless others who may be undeserving of blessing, God also blesses us. He blesses us because of His glorious nature—and not because we are deserving of His wonderful gifts. The command to bless those who curse us and pray for those who persecute us is, in effect, a roadmap on the pathway to peace. Did you ever notice that when you are lost the wrong way always seems right and the right way seems wrong? We need a roadmap to get us to where we really want to go.

3. What does ‘bless those who curse you,’ look like in everyday life? Consider the following:
a) Someone says, “You’ll never make anything of yourself.” We may bless the person who curses us by praying that God will deal with the core issue driving the curse (jealousy, bitterness, resentment, a mean spirit, etc. etc.) and refusing to interact on that level.

b) When we discern that someone does not have our best good at heart, we can bless them by setting boundaries that limit their power to do harm (therefore limiting the consequences they will suffer for their sin against us). If you think perpetrators of harm against God’s children get away with it, just read Matthew 18:6-7. Jesus tells us it is better to have a millstone hung about one’s neck and cast into the depths of the sea than to harm one of God’s little ones.

If we really take God at His word, that His wrath is stored up against unrepentant sinners, we might find it easier to bless our enemies in this world, knowing the agony they will experience (if they do not repent) in the world to come. (Romans 2:5)

The great revivalist, Jonathan Edwards, penned the famous sermon titled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God;” a sermon that sent grown men crawling under the pews in fear of God’s wrath. Let’s bless others by living above the dysfunction that motivates their curses and praying that God will save them from the wrath that awaits unrepentant sinners before it is too late. Let’s follow the example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who took up his cross and carried it all the way to Calvary for you and me—his beloved enemies.

Colossians 1:21-22 “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…”

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.

Guest blogger, Linda Settles

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ministry Update from the Voice of Victory in Delaware

These last two weeks
 have been like a whirlwind. We have traveled from Baltimore, MD, over to Philadelphia PA, down  to Lynchburg VA, then back up to Richmond, VA, and finally down to Rocky Mount, NC. WOW!

     God has met every need, paid for every drop of gas, blessed those hamburgers, chicken sandwiches at the fast food places and even sleeping in the car one night. Is God good or what? We witnessed 23 men giving their hearts to Christ and a host of others recommitting their life to the Lord. We also had the privilege of presenting two Bachelor of Biblical Studies Degrees to two men in Nash County Prison in NC.

     Also, the Lord provided the printer copier that we have been praying for. We had a technician come in and service the machine and it is working great. We thank God for Colonial Baptist Church in Charlottesville, VA,  Chaplain Larry Lilly and SCI Georgetown, DE,  Pleasant Plains Baptist Church in Apex, NC and others that asked we not share their names. God uses people like you and me to meet the needs of His ministry.

Chaplain Henry Gregory, Russ Kessler Jr., Russ Kessler Sr. and Jack Matthews

     Russ, pictured above, received his Bachelor of Biblical Studies Degree. My wife and I and our ministry are SO PROUD of Russ Jr. Russ will enter the prison ministry (with Dad & Mom) upon being released from prison. This young man is being greatly used by the Lord on the inside. Please pray with us for his soon release.

Chaplain Henry Gregory, Joseph Bromfield, Russ Sr. and Jack Matthews

Joe,  pictured above, received his Bachelor of Biblical Studies Degree. Joe is from New Hampshire and has done a great job preparing himself to serve the Lord in a full time capacity one day. We are so proud of Joe reaching this mile stone in his life.

Voice of Victory
 PO Box 186 Harrington De 19952

 Pray for the Kesslers, they do a great work in Delaware.
 Russ handles many of the Bible courses for Hope Aglow. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bean Soup, sound equipment and REVOLUTION!

Harold, Charles, Anna, Dave and Lee Ann
Hope Aglow Volunteers
     Once upon a time, Garry Sims and Harold Knowles went on a road trip to Reidsville, North Carolina. This isn't unusual for them since both are involved in ministry with Hope Aglow. Garry is the Director of Hope Aglow and Harold is a volunteer along with his wife Anna. Garry preaches and Harold sings regularly at the Sunday services held at prisons in Virginia and North Carolina. 

     Recently, Harold received a phone call from a lady named Mrs. Carter who wanted to donate some sound equipment to the ministry and this was the reason for the road trip. Garry and Harold took a van to pick up the equipment. They didn't know what they were going to find when they got there, but a gift to the ministry is a gift from God.
     When they arrived in Reidsville they were pleasantly surprised and very appreciative. There were three sets of very large speakers, a twenty four channel sound board and microphones, more than they could fit into the van in one trip. Mrs. Carter was so pleased to find a useful home for her husband's equipment, and Garry and Harold thanked her and set off for home with all they managed to squeeze into their vehicle.

     The equipment turned out to be first quality, but much too large for the needs of the ministry. For the purposes of getting in and out of prisons, and traveling in a mini van, the equipment has to be smaller and more portable. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth however, the men figured if God had given it to them, then He had a use for it.

     They weren't on the road long before Harold decided it was time for dinner. He knew of a little restaurant in Reidsville that served delicious bean soup, but Garry wanted to get home. He thought the best thing was to grab some fast food and stay on the road, but Harold convinced him that he must try this soup at Mayberry's Restaurant.

Garry Sims, Hope Aglow
     Once they were inside and waiting for their dinner, Garry noticed a young man wearing a Liberty University baseball cap sitting nearby. He asked if he had attended school there. The young man introduced himself and told Garry yes, he had attended Liberty. Garry told him about Hope Aglow and their affiliation with Liberty University and Thomas Road Baptist Church. He then asked the young man what he was doing now that he had graduated.

     As it turns out, the young man is Hunter Pegram and he has been busy. He is married, the father of twins, a fireman in Greensboro, and the Pastor of a new church he has just planted called Revolution Church in Reidsville, NC. They are meeting in the local high school gym. Garry asked them if they needed any sound equipment...

Here is Hunter's tweet >
Revolution Church

God just handed us about 7 thousand dollars worth of sound equipment!

Here is a video of Hunter, talking about Revolution Church.

Revolution Church - 1 from David Duncan on Vimeo.

Thanks to Mrs Carter for giving, thanks to Harold Knowles for loving prison ministry and soup, and thanks to Garry for never meeting a stranger... Hope Aglow was able to reach out and help the kingdom come.