A Time For CHARM
The Power of Prison Ministry
They were hardened men. Killers, robbers and sexual predators, along with those guilty of many other offenses filled the room. There were dozens of them ranging in age from young adults to senior citizens. Though their crimes varied, they all did have one thing in common. Many were without hope.
Society had cast them out. Deemed them dangerous and no longer worthy of participation in day-to-day activities on the “outside”, the likes of which you and I take for granted. Consigned to live in concrete boxes, often not much larger than a bedroom’s walk-in closet, these discarded individuals had fallen into a dreary daily routine of boredom occasionally punctuated with terror and violence. The fact that they came to hear me speak may have been as much a desperate attempt to break up the daily drudgery of prison life as it was an interest in me or what I had to say. Their goal was to survive just one more day. To complete one more hash mark in the time-served column.
I understand a survival mentality. It was only four years ago that I found myself being dragged away in the jaws of an 800-lb. grizzly bear. I’d been bowhunting in a remote wilderness area of northwest Canada when a sudden encounter turned violent and my life was forever changed. On the floor of a rescue helicopter in a race against time to the nearest outpost where medical help waited, I came to understand that death is no respecter of wealth, titles or positions. I had to choose to live another day in spite of very grim circumstances and a very uncertain future – just like the convicts facing me that day at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Estelle Unit located in Huntsville, Texas.
Prior to 2015 I was known as a successful businessman. I had everything I needed in life and more than I deserved. Death was an appointment on my calendar in the far-distant future that hardly warranted a second thought until he showed up for me in the form of an angry grizzly after moving that appointment up on me a few decades. But I was blessed. Unbeknownst to me, Almighty God had also scheduled an appointment with me that same day, and He kept it. We met in that helicopter and He gave me a new purpose in life. Today I travel all over sharing my story as The Bear Man, a moniker assigned to me where I first received medical treatment after the attack. God gave me a second chance, hope for a new life and a new future. It’s a wonderful ride, but sometimes it takes me places where I’m initially hesitant to go.
Prisons are not thought of as fun places. I think I’ve already explained some of the reasons why. Yet the Bible tells us we are to minister to those incarcerated there…
Then the King (Jesus) will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40) NIV
C.H.A.R.M. In Prison
There’s a prison ministry called C.H.A.R.M. It stands for Christ’s Hope and Reconciliation Ministry. Its purpose is to bring the hope of God to those behind bars and teach them how to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. If you look up the word reconcile in the Oxford Dictionary it says, “To find a way in which two situations or beliefs that are opposed to each other can agree and exist together.” While some judgmental individuals may say hardened criminals can’t be reconciled to God, the Bible says differently. Jesus promised salvation to a hardened criminal who repented in his last hours on the cross next to Christ. Jesus tells us in Mark 10:27 that “…all things are possible with God.” When CHARM first asked me to come tell my story and share about God’s second chances in a prison, I had mixed emotions. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a flicker of hesitation, but it was overwhelmed by the voice of the Holy Spirit inside of me compelling me to go.
Man, am I glad I did. As I was sharing my story with those men in white and saw how eagerly they listened, my heart was moved. Many of them were hearing about reconciliation and grace for the first time. I could see their eyes give way from darkness to a flicker of hope that got brighter with each passing minute. By the time I finished some were in tears, others had smiles so broad you’d think they were about to swallow their ears. Several make commitments to God that day and others reconnected with faith that had been trampled by circumstances of life. And God did a number on me that day as well.
Anything Can Be A Prison
Maybe you’re reading this blog on a prison computer. Perhaps you feel trapped in a prison of another kind as you read this at home or at work. Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, whatever imprisons or binds you, please know God loves you and is waiting to set you free. Jesus himself said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18 NIV
If you’re feeling boxed in, hopeless or helpless in your circumstances today, I want to help you. Reach out to me using the contact information on this website. Those of us here at The Bear Man will listen, pray with you and guide you to help and resources to reconcile you with God and enjoy the new freedom Jesus has promised.
For more information on C.H.A.R.M Prison Ministry click HERE.
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*THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide