*Update - May 31, 2020: It is estimated that there are more than 105,000 children with a parent serving time in prison or jail in the state of New York. (https://ocfs.ny.gov/main/incarcerated_parents/). Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program (the largest prison ministry in the world) received only 5,926 applications from inmate parents asking for Christian partners to provide a personal message and a gift from them to their child during the Christmas 2019 season!
Original Blog Post:
The days seem ages ago, but it has been only 5 years since I sat on my top bunk in the corner of my prison dorm staring out the windows at Mount Beacon. I would cry and I would pray. In reflection, I recall feeling the cold breeze from the drafty walls, my hyper-awareness of both the staffs' and the inmates’ instability and the overwhelming atmosphere of DARKNESS. Those mountains looked close enough to touch but were a world away separated by guards and prison walls. But Jesus….
The sun’s rays would shine their light and warmth on me from the peaks of those mountains. I was blessed to have this spot in the dorm. It was safe in the corner and I had the view of the entire dorm and God’s majestic creation. He shined His light on me from those mountain tops in Beacon, NY. I was at Beacon Correctional Facility of the NYS Department of Corrections when I saw the light of Jesus. I would not change that for anything. Jesus said "You did not choose Me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will remain—so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you. This is My command to you: Love one another." John 15:16-17
I will never forget my sisters behind bars; they understood me like I had never been understood before. They were brutally honest, and in our brokenness, it made sense. We kept it real. Many of us are deeply loving people with amazing hearts but dysfunctional pasts and unhealthy generational curses. All need
reconciliation, rebirth and restoration.
No one is born a criminal. It happens one learned behavior and one compromise at a time. The little compromises become bigger and, in my case, they multiplied, leaving me a criminal who had left behind a trail of innocent victims. One group of victims I left behind was my family. I will never allow myself to forget the pain I caused them by making the poor choices I did. However, over the past 5 years I have learned to forgive myself and reconcile with them. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 Through my trials, God has brought me to a place where I can use my life experiences to serve the families of the incarcerated in a way my own was not. This is where Beacon of Light (a ministry program of Ministry Alliance) was conceived.
In 2015, there were approximately 80,000 children in New York State with a parent in prison and Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program (the largest prison ministry in the world) only served 6,556 of those children! Additionally, while there are programs available to help the inmates and the children of the prisoners, other family members are often left carrying the burden of supporting the family financially, emotionally and spiritually with little direction or support. Caregivers, grandparents, siblings and even close friends are devastated by the often sudden loss of their loved one and go through all of the stages of loss as a death but with the added stigma of shame and shock due to the loved one’s crime. We are called to love and serve each other ("You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love." Gal. 5:13) while offering our bodies as living sacrifices ("Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship." Romans 12:1). This is where Beacon of Light steps in.
Beacon of Light serves inmates and their families by utilizing individualized program plans for each family. We unite community members, churches, organizations and other programs in assisting and meeting the needs of these families. Our goal is to reconcile families with each other and with God simply by showing the love of and sharing the truth of Jesus Christ. Beacon of Light operates in Albany, Essex, Fulton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren and Washington Counties in Upstate New York. We want to discover what the needs are in each of these communities and train volunteers to meet them personally where we can. Where we cannot, we will act as a liaison and utilize other resources and organizations in that area. Can you drive, write letters, send cards, organize an event or meeting, be a friend? Do you like making telephone calls and are detail oriented? Whatever your gift, we need your help!
Are you blessed financially? Beacon of Light Family Ministry Inc. is an IRS 501(c) (3) non-profit public charity. Your contributions are tax deductible.
Beacon of Light is also an approved ministry partner of both Grace Chapel of Clifton Park and Faith Church of Glenville. If you would like to financially support the work we are doing you can CLICK HERE TO DONATE. You can also give online at gracecp.org/give or faithcrossroads.org (click GIVE NOW). Please make sure to chose the missions fund/memo for Beacon of Light. We welcome your inquiries!