Restrained behind bars, with contact rarely initiated by those in the free world, how do inmates find encouragement and hope?
Christmas Behind Bars is one solution in Michigan, United States, that seeks to share hope to those locked away. Started by former inmate Lemuel Vega, this ministry uses goody-packed Christmas bags to introduce the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The prisoners who receive these bags may remain behind bars of iron for years. This program is designed to release those prisoners from the invisible bars of guilt and shame.
The bag-packing event involved hundreds of participants on the sixth annual Change Day at Andrews University in Berrien Springs. Village Seventh-day Adventist Church pastor Dennis Page, a former federal inmate, orchestrated the stuffing of 8,600 bags to send to prisoners behind bars. The bags were sent to four state prisons and one county jail.
Andrews University students, faculty, and staff; Village Seventh-day Adventist Church staff; and Village Elementary School 5th and 6th graders all teamed up on five production lines and filled thousands of bags in only a few hours. The bags included sweet treats, nutritious delights, and sweet words of courage. Literature placed in the bags included spiritual books and pamphlets, free book offers, and encouraging “thinking of you” cards written by children.
Organizers reminded participants what Christ told His disciples: “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me’” (Matthew 25:34–36, NKJV).
They added, “Years ago, one small church reached out to Lemuel when he was in prison and introduced the gospel that changed his life. He now actively works to free others who need light shown in the darkness. Please pray that these packages work to bring hope to the minds of those who are physically restrained but still have the opportunity to become spiritually unshackled.”