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Christmas behind bars at Stateville

12/5/2018, 1:54 p.m.
timesweekly.com At the beginning of 2018, I was introduced to a non-profit organization called Christmas Behind Bars and became so ...

timesweekly.com

At the beginning of 2018, I was introduced to a non-profit organization called Christmas Behind Bars and became so excited. This non-profit organization started over 20 years ago at a church in Indiana. It has grown every year and is now reaching over 50,000 prisoners across the United States by providing Bibles, snacks, devotional books, and other necessary items. These gifts are a blessing to those behind bars, letting them know that they are not forgotten, God loves them and there is hope in Jesus.

I expressed to my church, the Joliet Seventh-Day Adventist Church, located just down the road from Stateville Correctional Center, that we can help provide gift bags to each inmate right here in Joliet. For over 47 years, I have passed Stateville on my way to church and never gave much thought about the men behind those walls, but the Holy Spirit was impressing on my mind, that there are souls there that need to hear about the love of Jesus, His forgiveness and hope. I was reminded of Christ words found in Matthew 25:36 “… I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” So how could I ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit. We started working on raising the funds needed for this project.

On November 28th, Christmas Behind Bars delivered 3,650 gift bags along with snacks for the 1,500 staff that work at the prison. With the help of a couple volunteers from Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), and a few members from the church, we distributed the gift bags to each inmate on November 29 and 30. It was an immense blessing to talk, pray and share the love of Jesus with these men - an experience we will never forget. The men were so appreciative. Over and over, I heard them say “nobody ever did anything like this for us before”. We also want to thank all of the inmates, correction officers, and staff that helped with the distribution of these gift bags, without their help it would have taken several days to complete this task.

At this time of year, we tend to focus on giving and receiving gifts from friends, family and acquaintances, but the most important reason for this time of year is to remember why Jesus came in the first place. Jesus exchanged a heavenly home for a stable and a cross. He came to die for you and me. He came to teach us about love, forgiveness, and to give hope to those in despair. Was there a finer gift? Was there ever a present more treasured by those who accept it? So, as you think about the gifts you will be sharing this year, maybe the most important gift that you can give will be the gift of forgiveness, which benefits both the giver and the receiver. To learn more about Christmas Behind Bars Outreach Ministries or to make a donation go to christmasbehindbars.org. God Bless you this Christmas!