Prisoner’s Letter Leads to Visit from Hillsong United

Lothar Preston had accepted Christ several years before but it was during his time at Folsom Prison that new programming brought a message that helped transform his understanding of God’s love and mercy.

A few years ago the prison began getting the Hillsong Channel as part of their TV program lineup. The Hillsong Channel emanates from the Australian megachurch Hillsong and features spiritual formation and worship content, including music from one of their worship bands, Hillsong United.

Preston found Hillsong United’s music to be a pathway to experience God’s love in a more profound way. He cited their Miami concert as one that especially touched him. As a way of thanking the band, last November he wrote a letter of appreciation to them. He asked his sister to locate their address on the internet and off it went. He had no idea if anyone would ever read it.

The letter did reach the band and they were moved that their music had made an impact in such an unlikely place on the other side of the globe. In early July the band contacted the organization God Behind Bars letting them know that they were touring in California and wondered if it would be possible to meet with Preston and perhaps perform for some of the inmates. In turn, Raeanne Hance of God Behind Bars contacted Serving California to help make the appeal to Folsom Prison’s administration.

Hillsong Folsom Prison

From left to right: Matt Crocker, Jonathon Douglass, Lothar Preston, Taya Smith, Dave Wesley, and Luke Webb

Serving California’s Northern California Program Director Dave Wesley worked with Folsom Chaplain Bill Rogowski and Community Resource Manager Carl Siegler to gain needed approvals. Since the request was received a mere week before the band was coming to town, Rogowski recommended that Hillsong United simply come as the worship band for Sunday service.

With a minimum of equipment, the renowned band arrived on July 23rd, performed How Great Thou Art, Amazing Grace, and their most famous song, Oceans, to a packed chapel. The response was one of genuine gratitude for God’s grace in all situations. Afterward, the band visited with Preston, SC’s Wesley and representatives from God Behind Bars to share stories of mutual encouragement and recognition for how God’s will is accomplished when His people work together for His glory.

Preston had no idea when he wrote a simple letter of thanks to a band a world away that God would connect the dots and bless so many individuals and organizations. As Preston said afterward, “I’m humbled.” Everyone present said they felt the same.

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