Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies. Hebrews 13:3 (NLT)
The Pursuit of Christ
Sat , 3-9-2011 1634 views
Prison Ministry Update
The Pursuit of Christ
Paul* has lived a very difficult life. From the beginning, he was raised in a very broken family with an abusive, alcoholic father and a physically and emotionally abused mother. Paul himself was often physically beaten. It should come as no surprise, then, that at an early age Paul began looking for something to relieve the pain. He found this answer in drug use. This quickly became a dark and dangerous spiral, as Paul found himself not only using the drugs, but selling them. This too seemed to reduce the pain, since having the extra money was a nice convenience.
But life took an unexpected turn for Paul when he found himself in prison for his drug abuse. Even this did not turn Paul’s life around. The spiral took him further and further down, and for the next 26 years he found himself in and out of prison multiple times, once for 15 years straight, for drug use, theft, assault, and more.
Seven years ago, Paul came into contact with House of Light’s prison outreach team. For five of those years, Anis and the team pursued a relationship with him. And for five years, Paul said no emphatically. Anis would go to Paul’s room in an effort to engage him, but Paul would only restate that he did not want to hear anything about God.
The team did what they could to reach out to Paul, despite his constant rejections. But God was working in Paul’s life in ways that no person could ever have attempted to accomplish on his own. We can only imagine the thoughts that went through Paul’s head and the brokenness he experienced in his heart that led him to the team’s next interaction with him on Christmas 2008. It was then that Paul approached Nawal, feeling uncomfortable about talking to “the man that he had rejected for so many years.” But Nawal knew what Paul most needed to hear. “He loves you, you know,” she told him. “You can talk to him.” And so Paul did, asking Anis a very blunt and honest question. “Will you be there for me when I get out?” The question was full of a dying hope that had found new life. Paul needed love, and when he finally decided to reach out, he found love was reaching back. It always had been, through the pursuit of Christ, visibly extended through the love of the House of Light team. It was then that Paul opened himself to such love, and committed his life to Christ in December 2008.
It was 4 months later when Paul was released, but during that time he and Anis built a close relationship. They prayed together, talked about the Bible together, and Paul called Anis as often as he needed to. When he got out of prison in early 2010, Anis held up to his promise and helped Paul find a job, a place to live, and continued meeting with him. But life after 26 years in prison is anything but easy. In prison you are broken to the point of asking permission for every move, and the freedoms of normal life can be entirely overwhelming after such training. This time has been especially difficult for Paul, since his former income revolved around the money he made through drugs. He has not had the experience of earning an honest living.
Temptations are a constant presence for him. Former friends still call his number, enticing him to join them again. Paul knows just how easy it would be to fall back into his former life, but he’s walking in dependence upon Christ now, and learning how much of a difference that makes. The last year and a half have been a journey of retraining his mind, learning to make his own decisions and to do so with the wisdom and power of God. We pray constantly for the Lord’s provision, but we also know the journey is far from over.
Why do we share Paul’s story with you? We do so because we want you to “come and see,” to allow yourself to step into the story and experience life from Paul’s eyes. We want you to understand his defeats, his struggles, but also his victories. We want you to love him and pray for him, as we do.
We also share this story to raise awareness. We want you to see the need not only for workers in the prisons here, but also among the younger generation. Our hearts are absolutely broken for the young lives around us that we see falling into a story like Paul’s. But what if? What if such stories could be prevented? What if we were able to be more proactive, rather than reactive? We continuously praise God for Paul’s story, but we also pray for dedicated workers who feel led to rise to the call of youth discipleship, showing them the light and love of Christ before they are scarred by wrong crowds, bad decisions, and emotional bondage.
We also tell Paul’s story because we ask for a response from you. There are many different responses to give, so we ask you to prayerfully consider the following things:
- Paul still needs much prayer. We are sending this report now because we feel the situation in Paul’s life is leading up to a very crucial point. We know the power of a praying family, so we ask you to partner with us to support him, and intercede for him as often as you think of him.
- Paul also needs further discipleship. We are praying and looking for the next step in his life. Since he longs for continued growth, we are considering sending him to an Arabic speaking Discipleship Training School, or similar program. We believe this will be a good “fresh start” for him, and instill knowledge and experience that can guide the rest of his life. However, to leave the country, Paul must have all of his outstanding debts paid in full. He also needs the amount of money required for the DTS and airfare. This total amount is about $9000. We understand this is a large amount, but we have seen the pursuit of Christ on Paul’s life, and know that God will continue to provide. Please support him as you feel God leading you.
- Pray for workers. We are thankful for the ways that God has used Anis in the prisons for the last several years. But if He can do this much through one man, how much more can He do with a whole team? We are praying for men and women of God whose hearts are broken for people like Paul, both within prison and among the younger generation, and who are willing to dedicate their life to this work.
- Pray about the worker being you. We do not make this statement lightly. We understand that the calling to such a life is not easy. Often Jesus warned us of the cost of discipleship. And often many turned away. But not all. Some of them did rise to the challenge, seeing that whatever the cost, the gain was far greater. While we hope and pray that all of your hearts have been moved toward prayer, we believe that God is speaking to others in a different way, calling them not just to prayer, but to be a part of the visible answer to the prayers of others. Please commit some time to asking God if one of those He is speaking to, is you.
*name has been changed for his protection
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. We are honored and constantly thankful for the networks of believers that surrounds House of Light. May God bless you greatly.
This article is also available in Nederlands //
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Much happened during the prison visits in December and January - here is an update from Anis and Nawal
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