Introduction to “The Light of Life!”

How can an incarcerated man or woman find LIGHT when all seems like DARKNESS???

First of all, you have an incredible, unbearable sense of shame and failure. You have made terrible choices, broken the law, hurt individuals and/or their families, utterly let down and humiliated your OWN family, friends and loved ones. You are now a dark blot on society – among the lowest of the low.

You are now an INMATE. You are now a NUMBER, not a NAME. You are reminded of this daily as you stand at your cell door or bunk for count times. You get up in the morning and go to bed at night according to a pre-set institutional schedule. Your meals are all scheduled for you, and you stand in long lines to get your tray of bland, starchy prison food, just as you stand in pill lines daily to get your medications. All is sameness. One dark, dreary day just blends into another.

Your every movement & activity is determined by your being on a master pass list or having some kind of special pass. Without these, you would go nowhere: institutional jobs, school/vocational classes, treatment programs, even religious services or programs. Everywhere you go, you must show your ID and sign in and out. Again, you feel that sense of darkness and shame.

Letters from family members are few and far between. You understand. They’re busy and they have lives to live. Phone calls out to family members are also few and far between. Such calls are simply too expensive for you and/or your family to pay for. The same is true with the monitored email system. You truly wish you knew more about how your kids are doing in school and living with the relatives you had to place them with. Your parents are growing older, and their health is getting worse. They are seldom able to make it to visit you any more, and you find yourself wondering if they’ll still be in this world when you’re released. You so wish you knew more about what’s going on with family members and friends, but instead you lie in your bunk at night, wondering and worrying in the darkness.

When you DO get visits, there are strict rules about even hugging or kissing your own spouse and children. You sit on the opposite sides of a table, and visiting time is over all too quickly. Then you have to be strip searched by correctional officers before you can go back to your building. You go back to your cell or bunk, and the darkness returns.

Perhaps worst of all is the SPIRITUAL darkness that you feel…

Perhaps you never had faith in God in the first place. You weren’t raised in church, and you never saw any need for religion. Or maybe you DID grow up in church, and maybe at one time you tried to walk with God and to live your life right. But that was a lifetime ago. With what you’ve done now and with the way you’ve lived your life, there’s simply NO WAY that God could love, forgive or accept you again. You can just forget about that. There’s no HOPE for you, and you have accepted that you’re going to have to live in spiritual darkness for the rest of your life, and you DREAD what awaits you in eternity.

But then one day a CHAPLAIN comes into your building to do rounds. He/she stops at your cell or bunk, asks how you’re doing and if there’s anything you need prayer for, and then invites YOU to attend a Bible study or a gospel music concert! You look down at the floor and say, “I’ll think about it.” Surely this Chaplain doesn’t know what kind of person you are – about the darkness that lies within you.

It’s truly unbelievable, but somehow you find yourself going to that gospel music concert. You sit WAY in the BACK, but you find that the music and testimonies are actually lifting some of your darkness. And since lightning didn’t strike you, you decide to sign up for and attend that Bible study group. You are amazed as the religious volunteer leaders share about their own lives (warts, mistakes, failures and all) – and about how Jesus loved & forgave them and made their lives new. You feel love & caring radiating out from them – something like you’ve never known. Long story short: Within a few months, you are attending the Bible study group every week, going to worship services, etc. And then one evening as you lie on your bunk you ask God to forgive you and give you a new start in life. You ask Jesus to be your Savior and Lord, and about a month later the Chaplain baptizes you during a Sunday afternoon service. At last your darkness & hopelessness are gone. You now have the LIGHT of Jesus in your life each and every day – even behind the bars, gates, fences and barbed wire. You find yourself excited about sharing Jesus’ love & grace with other inmates and with your family members.  WOW!!!

The LIGHT of LIFE!!!

Dear friend, your faithful and generous giving/support make this possible! GraceInside was founded in 1920 (104 years ago!) specifically to place caring Chaplains in Virginia’s state prisons.  Today we have 33 Chaplains serving in all 40 state correctional facilities across the Commonwealth – from Tidewater to Southwest Virginia. We minister to approximately 24,000 incarcerated men and women that live in our state prisons. What a MISSION FIELD! What an opportunity to drive out the darkness and bring LIGHT into so many lives!!!

Easter is the time when we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! Our Savior overcame darkness, hopelessness and death itself.  JESUS Himself is that LIGHT OF LIFE than can enter our hearts and give us the gift and the certainty of ETERNAL LIFE!!! This Easter season, would you ask God what He would have you give to GraceInside so we can provide more Chaplains, more FULL-TIME Chaplains and more ministry hours to our state prisons??? Remember, in Virginia the state prison Chaplains are NOT state employees, and they are not compensated with state taxpayer monies. Instead, these Chaplains are sent by, work for and are compensated by YOU, the “people in the pews” of the various churches and denominations.  Let’s honor our Risen Lord by reaching out and sharing His love and grace with those that He called “the least of these” – men and women living in the darkness of our state prisons.  Together we can say THANK YOU to JESUS and also send a great big “WE LOVE YOU” to each and every inmate in our state correctional system. Let’s make this our most successful Easter Campaign ever!  Praise God!!!

Yours in our Risen Lord Jesus,

Rev. J. Randy Myers
Executive Director

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