Each year one of our local congregations packs 70,000 “prison packs” to be distributed to all incarcerated people in Illinois’ jails & prisons. Each gift is hand packed and prayed over before they are delivered to the individual facilities. This year’s gift included a honey bun, cheese crackers, a puzzle book, a devotional & a journal.
On Friday night, I was privileged to join 15 other individuals in the distribution of these gifts at McHenry County Jail. Over the course of nearly 4 hours, small groups of 20-35 inmates/detainees visited us in their unit’s gym. While they were with us we shared with them that the gifts they were about to receive were to remind them that they are not forgotten by us or by God. In fact, God sent us the ultimate gift of His Son Jesus to save us all from our sin. We also encouraged them to attend the church services, Bible Study, etc. that McHenry County Helping Hands provides at the jail on a weekly basis.
As you can probably imagine this is a multi-lingual population. Our group was fortunate enough to have a couple of bi-lingual ladies who translated for us.
I have no idea how many groups that we spoke to but God does and he had a plan for each of them. The moments that touched my heart the most were:
- When Judy said that God sent His Son, Jesus, to be the ultimate gift for us; the men applauded.
- After we asked for prayer requests, one of the groups asked if they could pray for us instead.
- A Muslim man in one of the groups expressed his appreciation for our message and thanked us for sharing it with him.
- As I was handing a gift to one of the guys, he said, ” I don’t need the gift. Your visit is the only gift that I needed.”
- The vulnerability that some of the men expressed when sharing their prayer requests.
- As the men filed past us to receive the gifts, they wished us each a Merry Christmas/Feliz Navidad, shook our hands and thanked us for coming.
I pray for each of the men and women that our teams visited last night. May they embrace the small gifts that they received and turn their hearts fully to you. I know, Lord, that you have not forgotten your incarcerated sons and daughters. I believe that your will is for them to receive the gift you are offering and open their hearts to your will. I ask that each of their families receive a special blessing this Christmas and that your Peace, Joy & Love surrounds them.
In Your Precious & Holy Name,