It is always an amazing experience each time I enter a prison and witness how deeply the programming funded by Serving California affects both staff and inmates, as well as their families.
Serving California is such a unique foundation, finding ways to reduce recidivism that California simply cannot do itself as a government body. Locating and identifying faith-based programs that will bring about desired behavior modification by actually changing a person’s heart as well as his/her mind is our goal, and each time I witness these faith-based programs in action, I am amazed.
Just last month, Serving California had the great honor of joining forces with the Mighty Oaks Warrior Program to bring a second Fight Club into Centinela State Prison. The Fight Club is a program addressing PTSD, as well as identifying manhood, goal setting, finances, family unity, and much more.
The military veterans representing the Mighty Oaks Program, along with Serving California’s Program Director, began their visit to Centinela State Prison by presenting a ceremonial sword, a rudis, to Warden Raymond Madden to thank the prison for allowing this program to operate within the prison. Warden Madden, a retired USMC SGT., received the rudis with gratitude and encouraged us all by sharing how important the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) views programs such as The Fight Club.
Over the next three days the group of veterans spoke to the inmates attending, sharing their heartfelt stories, providing life skills and tools to address areas in their lives where Post Traumatic Stress has influence, and most importantly, the men were taught how to conquer and overcome major problems in life.
I was amazed as I read the men’s Fight Plans. One man laid out his plan on rebuilding his marriage, another on how to break away from his gang, another on how to restore his relationship with his children, and several were working on a plan to overcome drug addiction. These I expected. But then one very prominent inmate approached me and asked to speak privately.
This man had attended the first Fight Club held at Centinela State Prison in 2016. During his time with the veterans, he listened and grasped the importance God has in truly changing a man’s life, and he had taken the step of accepting Christ as his Lord and Savior. His enthusiasm and determination reached beyond the walls of the prison, and soon his wife also accepted Christ, forever changing their lives. But even in the joy of sharing this great news with me, his heart was heavy and tears were in his eyes as he told me; “I never knew following God would be so hard.” From there he shared with me some very personal struggles he and his wife were going through. As I listened my heart was torn and I silently allowed this man to pour out his heart to me, until he finally asked: “What am I supposed to do?”
Taking a deep breath I asked, “What is your plan? What is your fight plan for this?” That’s when I witnessed the amazing power of this program, the Fight Club. In an instant the inmate standing before me transformed from a broken hearted man, doing his very best to understand and control the circumstances surrounding both himself and his wife, and I could actually see as he began creating his “Fight Plan” to conquer his battle. This is what it is all about, serving God inside of a prison, bringing effective faith-based programs that change lives forever!
That evening I spent some time praying for this man and his wife, asking God to heal their broken hearts and strengthen their lives in such a manner that they could be used to witness to others who may find themselves in similar situations.
Now, as I write this article, almost a month later, I am amazed to know that this couple, an incarcerated man and his wife have applied a simple plan to fight for what is important to their life. And they are succeeding tremendously!