"For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. ... Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me." - Matthew 25:36,37,40 (NRSV)
Just as we are told to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, Jesus' words in Matthew 25 instruct us to visit those who are in prison. Even so, we often balk at the idea of caring for criminals, as though they aren't as deserving of God's love as we are. All have sinned and fall short of God's ideal (Romans 3:23), yet we seem to believe that some failures are worse than others. But the truth is that Christ died for all of us, even while we kept right on sinning (Romans 5:8). If you're thinking about following God's call to visit the prisoner, here are some ways to go about it.
All In Community
All In Community - West Ohio's Prison Ministry Initiative - works alongside the Horizon Prison Initiative to create opportunities for ministry with prisoners and ex-offenders. Ministries include prison support groups, Wesleyan covenant groups, Healing Communities, and Urban Encouragers.
Horizon Prison Initiative
Horizon Prison Initiative works to restore the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated to healthy, purposeful living through mentoring, education, skill training, and spiritual growth. An Ohio-based prison program, Horizon seeks to teach prisoners to embrace society, not harm it. These transformed prisoners then transform prison cultures and home communities. Learn more on the Horizon website.
Kairos believes that true rehabilitation starts with the heart. Kairos's ministry to incarcerated men and women begins with the Kairos weekend where volunteers model and communicate God’s unconditional love, grace and mercy. The goal of each Kairos weekend is for participants to find hope and a new vision for their life through a relationship with God. For more on Kairos, visit their website here.
Epiphany Ministry, Inc. is an ecumenical Christian Ministry for young men and women who are in the custody of Juvenile Justice Facilities. The purpose is to manifest God's love to incarcerated youth through a three-day short course in Christianity and an on-going follow-up program. Each Epiphany weekend involves a team of adults and youth from the Christian community who work together to show the love of God to those attending. To learn more, visit the Epiphany website.