“I got your letter today and thank you for making me feel like a person again. When I am at my lowest, you can bring me back up to the top.”
In December 2021, the HOPE Letters program celebrated two years of correspondence with men and women who are incarcerated. Since HOPE Letters started in December 2019, it has grown from five writers at Grace UMC in Dayton writing to women at the Ohio Reformatory for Women (ORW) to 100 writers from 10 churches and faith-based organizations writing men and women inside five Ohio prisons.
HOPE Letters offer encouragement, faith sharing, and informed mentoring to increase the likelihood that correspondents find meaning while incarcerated, and when released, remain in the community as restored citizens. “HOPE Letters present a chance to touch people’s lives with the reality, love, and hope of Jesus while they are in a seemingly hopeless situation,” says Pavanne Cook from Gethsemane UMC in Columbus. “It may introduce some to Jesus for the first time or rekindle a relationship with Jesus for others, but it is a one-on-one mission field…one written letter at a time.”
For those in prison, the chance of a successful reentry is greatly enhanced by positive, trustworthy relationships that provide direction and support in accessing services to meet needs such as transportation, housing, food, and employment. “Our current group of women represents three UMC’s (Richland, Caananville, and First Athens),” says Carlene Triplett. “We reach just a few women, but I am sure many more men and women would like to know that someone cares about them, is praying for them, and sends them friendly letters once or twice a month. It is a project that takes compassion and persistence but not much time or money.”
If you or your congregation are interested in becoming involved in HOPE Letters, contact Reba Collins at allincommunity [at] wocumc.org.