Dear Friend of GraceInside,
Merry Christmas!!! Even though we continue to face challenging and difficult times, as people of faith we know that GOD is in control. And we know that there is still SO much to be THANKFUL for! Because our lives are built on the certainty that Jesus is Lord, we can indeed have peace of mind, joy in our hearts and bright hope for the future. Hallelujah!
But for the men and women incarcerated in our state prisons, even the brightest and best of days can be very DARK indeed. And can any of us even IMAGINE what the past nearly TWO YEARS have been like for inmates – living with the “lockdown” restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic (no visits, no group dining or recreation, no educational/vocational classes, no treatment programs, no religious programs or services, etc. for much of that time)? Perhaps the scariest thing of all was watching so many fellow inmates fall ill with the virus, seeing a number of deaths at some of the facilities, and fearing that YOU might be the “next person” to get the virus and possibly die in prison. How can HOPE – how can LIGHT – be offered to people living in this kind of DARKNESS and despair???
Well, thanks to caring individuals like YOU, the Chaplains of GraceInside were indeed able to bring LIGHT INTO DARKNESS, even during this very scary and difficult time. In the midst of circumstances that seemed utterly hopeless, GOD was present in very real ways, miraculously bringing His love, grace, life, light and hope to “the least of these” – men and women that so many forgot about or ignored.
In the midst of the pandemic, God showed our ministry favor. The Virginia Department of Corrections extended a “Telework Agreement” to our Chaplains, allowing them to work from home for 16 months, continuing to minister to the incarcerated men and women that they care so deeply for – even when they couldn’t be physically present in the prisons. Here’s how it worked:
- Chaplains went to the front entry of their prisons twice a week to pick up and drop off paper mail and requests from inmates and staff. Like the Apostle Paul, they developed a “ministry of writing”!
- The state granted full/free access for Chaplains to utilize the usually restricted/pay email system that inmates and their families use to communicate. They were able to send an unlimited number of free email messages to their inmates, and the inmates could respond back to them for free (with prayer requests, updates, etc.). This was unheard of!
- In personal or family emergencies, Wardens were able to allow Chaplains and inmates private crisis phone calls/pastoral counseling sessions. Again, unheard of!
- The DOC installed a new closed-circuit TV/DVD system in each facility (with five “channels” for DVD’s to be shown on), and with one channel designated for RELIGIOUS programming! This allowed our Chaplains and DOC staff/administrators to show approved programs, studies and services 24/7, with inmates able to view in their cells or from their bunks. Since inmates weren’t able to attend ANY programs or services for MONTHS, this was truly “the icing on the cake” – a tremendous blessing and ministry tool!
Our Chaplains were finally able to physically return to their facilities in mid-July of 2021. Programs and services slowly began again (much smaller at first and with strict guidelines), and a small number of our wonderful religious volunteers began to be allowed back in. Praise God! Then, effective July 1, 2021, God did something else AMAZING. He had the DOC broaden our contract so that (for the first time in our over-century-long history) we were able to place Chaplains in ALL DOC facilities! Our ministry and our reach actually GREW!!! We went from serving at the 30 largest DOC facilities to serving at all 42 Virginia state prison facilities! Thus, 2021 has been a truly HISTORICAL year for our ministry. GraceInside now has: 34 Chaplains, serving at 42 Virginia state correctional facilities, ministering to nearly 25,000 incarcerated men and women!!! Thanks be to God!
This Christmas, we truly want to thank and praise the Lord for “expanding our boundaries” and for opening new doors and opportunities for us to share His love and grace. But as you might guess, with new opportunities and a wider reach also comes a GREATER NEED for more financial support for our Chaplains and their unique “mission field.” We need more Chaplain work/ministry hours. We need MORE Chaplains! We desperately need more administrative support staff in order to keep our ministry operating smoothly and to support the Chaplains as we should. And so, dear Friend, I ask you to pray and ask God what He would have YOU do to help us bring even MORE LIGHT INTO DARKNESS. To put it plainly, we can’t successfully handle this kind of growth and expansion without YOUR HELP & SUPPORT. Please consider a special one-time Christmas offering to GraceInside (be it large or small), and also pray about becoming a monthly sponsor/donor. I thank you in advance for your generosity and support, and I wish you and yours a blessed, joyous, peaceful, glorious Christmas! Let’s celebrate JESUS!!!
Glory to the Newborn King!