Evelyn Lemly is CEO of Kairos Prison Ministry International. The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
Who do you think of when you are asked who is a hero?
You may have responded with the name of a world leader, a movie star, Superman, Captain America, or maybe you thought of a person who saved someone in a crisis such as a police officer.
Some of us may have thought of a family member or friend.
As Christians, our heroes may be those who led us to Christ, our pastor, or others in ministry who are impacting lives. While some of these may be real-life heroes, many of the true heroes are those behind the scenes who are doing courageous acts or operating with noble character.
One such group of unexpected Christian heroes comes from an unexpected location: the prisons. While 2.1 million people are currently incarcerated in the United States, there are ministries and programs that are positively changing the lives of many inmates to become productive citizens.
Many are changing because they have accepted Jesus Christ and are now working to serve the Lord and others. Nationwide, there is a positive Christian movement afoot in the many of the prisons and these men and women are getting out and making a difference in their communities.
We have people coming out from the prison systems who are now determined to make a difference in the lives of others.
Here are a few examples of these unexpected heroes:
- A woman, who after her release from prison, wanted to serve God and others so she started a coffee shop. She hires only ex-felons and serves the community by producing robust coffee. She and the staff are sharing what God has done in their lives with the customers and are boldly stepping forward to proclaim what Christ has done for them and what he can do for others.
- A man gets out and decides to help other incarcerated men re-enter society. He and others start a re-entry program and now have facilities that house dozens. They help people reconnect with society, gain employment, connect with their family, and get back on their feet, while sharing the love of Christ.
- A woman on death row who became a Christian in prison and started speaking into other women’s lives in the prison. She mentored them and led dozens of women to Christ. Often, she spoke to them through the vent system and shared her testimony about who Christ was in her life. Dozens of women were led to Christ by this one woman standing firm in her faith for Christ and realizing she could go and make disciples even though in prison.
- A few years after release from prison, a man felt called by God to pastor a church. He went to the inner city, similar to where he grew up, and began to share about Christ. People started gathering as they saw he understood their challenges and the church began. Now he ministers to hundreds every week.