As we know, some participants inside are just going through the motions. But it is such a joy to see the the light of life come on in others -- especially when they begin hungering and thirsting after God.
It is such a privilege to gain the trust of those who have never been able to open up and share their hidden struggles. Also to be a vessel to bring an understanding of God's grace; as Tracy said this past week as we studied the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Trinity, "You just brought me to a whole new level of appreciation of grace."
* Names changed to protect privacy
Janet approached me after class in late January with a concern that she did not experience the Lord in the same way many of the other inmates were experiencing him. Through a short conversation, I learned that she had been raised in church, was taken there regularly, had had the Lord call her numerous times in church as indicated by heart pounding and a fear of going forward which always resulted in going out the back door. She also shared during this conversation that she would never, ever, ever, ever talk about the Lord. It was not on her list of things to do.
After conversing for these few minutes I looked at her and said, “Janet, you are not experiencing the Lord because you have not been saved. You cannot ignore the Lord’s call and experience him at the same time.” She truly did not realize the seriousness of having shut the Lord out when he was dealing with her in the past. When she first approached me that afternoon, she wanted me to anoint her with oil because she felt like something was very wrong with her. I ended up anointing her, but I also told her I was going to pray a prayer over her that the Lord would forgive her for ignoring his call and that he would also give her another chance and call her to him.
I prayed and then I had her follow me in a prayer, asking the Lord to forgive her for shutting him out and to give her another chance. At the end of praying, there were tears in her eyes. I asked her why she was crying and she told me that she did not know. She was very emotional. At that point, I asked her if Jesus was calling her again, and she answered yes. More tears. So I asked her, “Janet, are you ready to say yes to Jesus and receive him in your life?” She said yes! So I led her in a prayer to receive Christ and she was saved! There were many still in the room and great rejoicing took place to the point that two other women in the slider who are not in the class came in, asked for prayer and received great victory.
Last week in class Janet testified that she had been in the pod the day before and ended up talking about God to another woman who was not in the FOCUS class. Her words, “So I talked about God after all!”
* Names have been changed to protect privacy.
The following are testimonies from a FOCUS facilitator working behind the walls with women. *
There have been a lot (of stories worth sharing) with this class but one that sticks out is Rachel's story. Rachel told an officer that she had been through rehabs and different programs. They were never enough to push her to quit until now. Now Rachel has fear of the Lord. She wants to be taken back to Knox County so she could finish her FOCUS program. She has been surprised how different she is becoming and finally has hope she will be changing for good. FOCUS is truly changing lives.
Also, earlier in the year I taught on miracles and how they still happen every day. A lady shared with me that during the two weeks I was out, a mass in her breast had been found that indicated cancer. When they found the mass she recalled the sermon on miracles, recited scriptures, and asked God to heal her miraculously. She was sent to Nashville for further procedures. Upon arriving in Nashville they started with an ultrasound and the tech informed her that she could not find any mass. Further tests were run and there was no mass or cancer present. She says she knows it was a miracle and she believed it for herself because of the sermon.
* All names have been changed to protect inmate and volunteer privacy.
To all FOCUS Volunteers, Donors, and Staff:
It’s been over 20 years since God called me into this exciting full-time Ministry behind the walls, and as I look back on the history of FOCUS I’m amazed at what He has done:
1) FOCUS Christian Academy has been established in 7 Correctional Facilities with men and women hearing the gospel and being discipled on a weekly basis
2) Malachi Dads (and now Hannah’s Gift) was begun which is allowing dads and moms to reconcile with their children – many for the first time in years
3) FOCUS Christian Academy on the outside was established to give men (and now women) the hope of a new life in Christ beyond prison walls
I’ve been blessed in all those years to work with hundreds of Godly Christian brothers behind the walls and they have impacted my life in powerful ways as I watched them walk out their faith. Many of them have gotten out and become some of my dearest friends – It’s been a blast watching them grow in the Lord, begin families of their own, and become integral parts of their churches and communities.
I’ve also been blessed immeasurably by serving side by side with Volunteers like you and will always remember how God has worked through you to change lives and impact the Kingdom. I may be a little prejudiced, but I believe FOCUS has the best Volunteers in the world!
On that note, as of April 15th, I will be retiring from my paid position with FOCUS. The Bible says that to everything there is a season, and as this season comes to a close, I can hardly wait to see what God has in store next – I’m pretty sure that it will still entail serving behind prison walls as a volunteer.
As most of you know, the past couple of years have been very difficult for Debbie and me - hopefully my retirement will allow me to spend more time with her. Thank you so much for how so many of you have prayed for us and poured into our lives.
In the words of Paul in Philippians 1:4-6 … "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
In His Service,
A FOCUS Favor!
If you are an Ex-Offender, will you please, please, please FILL OUT THIS SURVEY? Thank you!
We want to get MANY to take the survey and share the results at our upcoming banquet on April 11th with Mayor Jacobs, Rep. Jason Zachary, and many other Knox County Commissioners and city officials in attendance. Learn more at: www.focustn.org/2ndchances.
Save this image as your Facebook Header to Promote the Second Chances Banquet on April 11th, 6-8 PM at The Church of Knoxville.