Jerusalem – c. 33 A.D.
- A group of devastated, mournful women went to the tomb of Jesus on that first Easter morning – wishing to further show their love and pay their respects by bringing spices to anoint His dead body.
- This was the One that they had HOPED was the long promised Messiah, the King and Savior of Israel. But their hopes had been dashed when He had been executed on a horrible, cruel Roman cross a few days earlier – as a dangerous criminal and a rebel.
- As they approached the tomb, they wondered aloud who might help them roll the large stone away from the entrance. And that’s when it happened: HOPE was reborn! As they approached, they were met by an ANGEL! And the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, Who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay.”(Matthew 28:5-6 NIV)
- And thus, the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was proven to be TRUE. Indeed Christ died for our sins and rose again so that we can be forgiven by God’s grace, reconciled to God, and receive the gift of Eternal Life! Talk about HOPE!!!
Now let’s change the scene and look at another seemingly HOPELESS situation:
All 42 Virginia State Prisons – 2023 A.D.
- Around 24,000 incarcerated men and women sit on their bunks in dorms, double cells, single cells, etc. Some are serving only a few years. Others will DIE in prison. Regardless, each of them bears the scarlet letter “C” – for CRIMINAL. They will wear that label for the rest of their lives. It is a dark existence. Most of them feel rejected, worthless and utterly HOPELESS.
- Each is now a NUMBER, not a NAME. Many feel that they have committed an “unpardonable sin” – something that has forever cut them off from God and from “normal” human beings. Many/most of them know that they have harmed others in irreparable, unforgiveable ways – including their own family members. Spouses have left/divorced them. They have lost custody of children. Letters and visits have become few and far between. The days and nights seem ENDLESS…
- However, HOPE springs from an Empty Tomb! You see, the Risen Christ has sent a called, faithful, committed group of special missionaries into those Virginia state prisons. They are the 33 CHAPLAINS of GraceInside. For 103 years (since 1920), this unique, interdenominational, non-profit ministry has assigned Chaplains to Virginia’s state correctional facilities. Different than all other states (and also the federal prisons), Virginia’s state prison Chaplains are NOT state employees. They are employed and compensated by YOU – “the PEOPLE IN THE PEWS”!
- Our Chaplains (along with hundreds of caring volunteers) are there to share the GOOD NEWS of God’s unconditional love and grace in Christ Jesus – to let incarcerated men and women know that they MATTER and that they can be forgiven, reconciled to God and have Eternal Life!!! They are among “the least of these” that Christ came to seek and to save. And Jesus calls US to love them and care for them. “I was IN PRISON, and you came to visit me.” (Matthew 28:36)
- God dearly loves and cares about these 24,000 incarcerated men and women. Do we? Since our ministry is not funded by federal or state taxpayer monies, it takes a large coalition of caring individuals, churches, denominations, foundations, businesses, community organizations, etc. to fund our 33 Chaplains – serving at all 42 state correctional facilities.
This Easter, would you help us bring HOPE to the incarcerated men and women that we serve? Would you prayerfully consider a generous, sacrificial one-time gift and/or a recurring monthly gift to GraceInside? Do you love and care enough for “the least of these” to help us provide additional ministry hours and to help us raise more of our Chaplains to FULL-TIME status??? Thank you SO, SO much for helping us spread the message to prisoners that HOPE springs from an Empty Tomb!!!
Yours in Our Risen Lord,
Rev. J. Randy Myers