In many prison ministries, mothers are often forgotten, but ministering to mothers of prisoners should also be a part of a prison ministry.
My Son’s in Prison!
I once received a message from a mother that just broke my heart. She said, “My son murdered my grandson…now he’s in prison for life! What am I going to do? I can’t go on. Please help me.” She was at a loss about what to do and I was at a loss about what to say. I cannot even imagine how hard this must have hurt her. Most of the times when I’m at a loss for words, I just listen. I can pray for their son and pray for her, sometimes praying over the phone if she asks. It was one of the most heartbreaking messages I’ve ever received. When I preach or visit prisoners, I often hear them talk about their mother. They sometimes ask me to contact them and help them deal with this trial. Frequently, when men and women prisoners are ministered to, their parents are forgotten, but the inmates I know won’t let me forget! More often than not, the fathers are either disconnected from their son’s life, therefore they have little knowledge of what’s going on, or in some cases, don’t care to know about it. A few fathers are still connected to their sons in prison, but our experience has been that about 95% of the time, their mothers are the only ones to keep in touch with their sons and daughters. Maybe the numbers of absent or apathetic fathers didn’t help to prevent their children from going to prison, but prisoner’s mothers are often the forgotten ones. I know there’s nothing really I can do besides pray and try to give them hope, but one thing that does help is looking at things through the eyes of God. In other words, if we see the long range picture and not just a snapshot of the moment, we can see how God can and might be working in their son’s or daughter’s life. That might not seem like much hope, but it is still hope.
Set Free in Prison
There are countless numbers of men and women (my wife writes some women prisoners) who have been saved while in prison. Often they describe a time where they’ve reached the very bottom, and all they can do is look up, but that’s just how God reaches people. When they’re humbled, God can get their attention, but God cannot heal what is first not broken. God is near the broken and crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18). When you’ve reached the very bottom, there is only one way to look, and that is up. Many have come to saving faith and developed a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). Ironically, many prisoners are set free behind bars, while many in the world who think they are free are held captive by the god of this world (2 Cor 4:4). After many of these men hit rock bottom, they turned to the Rock. When they reached the point that they felt there was nothing more they could do, they knew that only God can help them now, but that’s just what He was waiting for. He changes these men and women’s hearts, which only He can do (Prov 21:1). It isn’t us or our church but the Spirit of God (2 Chron 32:8; Jer 17:5) that changes them into a new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17). They must still pay the consequences for their crimes, but not for their sins. Not after they’ve put their trust in Christ. Then they become the very righteousness of Christ (2 Cor 5:21).
A Mother’s Love
When I speak with mothers, it’s hard not to feel their pain. Of course, I don’t know what they’re going through, but I do know they may need someone to talk too. One lady says she brings her dump truck and unloads it all on me, and sometimes apologizes for it, but I tell her, “It’s okay. That’s why I am here.” I can sit and listen, if nothing else. I can promise her I’ll be praying for her son or daughter, but for her too. The mother’s often the only line of communication with the outside world that a prisoner has, but we can help them by being their legs out in the world, and many of these prisoners love that we keep in touch with their mothers. That makes them feel a little better about their mom, especially because most of these prisoners admit that they’ve hurt their mother…and most feel bad about that. Even here, we put our focus on the mercy of God Who forgives us of all our sins (1 John 1:9). Even if the courts don’t clear their records, God has. They may have been declared guilty by the state, but in the highest, supreme court of all, they’ve been declared “not guilty” by the blood of the Lamb. It was the truth that set them free (John 8:31-32).
There are so many great prison ministries today, but one thing that a lot of them unknowingly neglect is that these men and women have mothers and fathers. Sadly, the majority of prisoners have little or no contact with their fathers. The fathers may have divorced or separated and so there was little interaction with their father anyway. There are a few fathers who are sometimes involved in their son’s or daughter’s life in prison, but in our prison ministry, only about 1 in 20 prisoners ever hear from their father. That’s why the prisoner’s mothers must not be forgotten. We can offer to be there for her in court; we can make sure the children get some Christmas presents; we can offer resources that they might not have known about, and various other things that she may not have tried or thought about. Mostly, we’re there for moral support and try to reassure her that God uses evil for good; even the evil from our own hands.
Countless mothers have gone through the pain of having a child in prison. If you know of a mother or father that has a son or daughter in prison, pray for them and ask God to uphold them and pray for their child too. Jesus once said, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Matt 25:35-36), so in actuality, when we visit prisoners, and I believe visit their mother’s too, it is as Jesus said: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Mat 25:40). Something’s seriously wrong if we do not do any of these things for the “least of these.”
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Christian Crier or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.