The Book of Acts in the Bible talks about God arranging the times and places of everyone’s lives so that they might seek Him and find Him. (Acts 17:26-27) In some life stories, He’s found while serving a prison sentence.
Lifeline Global Ministries works to equip incarcerated women and men to become the godly parents they are meant to be – through the transforming power of the Gospel. More than once, we’ve heard, “When the judge sentenced me to ‘life,’ he had no idea I would be getting eternal life!” That’s the transforming power of the Gospel at work in a very dark place.
The Returning Hearts Celebration is a one-day event at select facilities that allows families to be reunited and come together. It’s more than just a carnival; it's a day of fun, games, and celebration. It’s a day where inmates can reunite with their children and be real parents again, if even for a day. They also have the opportunity to put into practice what they’ve learned via their weekly curriculum studies.
“My teenage daughter feels comfortable talking to me here. We can talk about anything here, unlike during a regular visit,” says John, an inmate.
“It’s irreplaceable,” says “Hutch”, the current inmate President of Malachi Dads at Louisiana State Prison.
It can be the catalyst that heals a family and breaks not only the cycle of sin but the intergenerational cycle of incarceration. It’s a day of restoration, that face-to-face chance to ask their children’s forgiveness and to invite them to know the love and salvation available to them through accepting Christ as their Savior.
Nine-year-old Matthew, Kyle Hebert’s son, who met his dad for the very first time at a Returning Hearts Celebration, is now a college senior. He recently wrote this:
“From the time I first saw him in 2009 at Returning Hearts I knew that this man was kind, caring and loving. My father has become an incredible role model in my life in his willingness and heart for helping others. This is not something that many people can say for their loved ones who have been incarcerated for this long. (22 years)
To be able to raise me into the man I am today and am becoming…my father is one of the best men that I know and I am proud to be close with him and to have his guidance. He [has been] more involved in my life than fathers who are out [not in prison] are in their kids’ lives.”
Other programs include Malachi Dads and Hannah’s Gift. These are the key avenues where the process of transformation often begins. Using Biblical examples, parents learn first how to get themselves right with God, then they learn the Biblical principles of parenting. It is built on the principle of Malachi 4:6, “I will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”
As men participate in the Malachi Dads program, they learn to live up to their biblical responsibilities as a father. It is more than a Bible study. It is a community of men who have pledged to glorify God and build His Kingdom by prioritizing the raising of godly children. “How do you parent your child from 300 miles away?” Says Kevin, an inmate in Louisiana. “I have these brothers, Malachi Dads, who help me.”
Nationwide, more than 2.7 million children are growing up with at least one of their parents in jail or prison. This restoration is desperately needed, and Lifeline Global Ministries equips parents to be intentional in their family relationships through building a legacy of faith in Christ.
Mothers are often the primary caregivers for their children, and her absence due to incarceration creates a significant loss. The Hannah’s Gift program takes its name from 1 Samuel 1-3 in the Bible. Hannah did not raise her son in the traditional sense – dedicating him to God and a life away from her in the priesthood, she did provide her son with a solid foundation of faith, shaping the person he became. Referring to Hannah, in the Old Testament, inmate mothers often tell us that it is possible to “parent your children from afar.”
“Teenagers don’t come with instruction manuals,” said one mom while telling of her frustration in helping her teen, but she’s learning how to gently influence and give guidance to her daughter through letters and phone calls, and the occasional prison visit.
“I may not be able to do a lot, but I can pray,” says a grandmother serving a life sentence, “and I can help these young mothers that come in here, broken and discouraged. I’m Hannah’s Gift facilitator here, as well.”
You can be part of bringing restoration to incarcerated mothers and fathers and their families. Find out more about the work of Lifeline Global Ministries and join us at lifelineglobal.org.