Showing posts from October, 2013

Preaching without words

I've been looking at the mailers from major prison ministries...those with international programs. The materials come in full color with beautiful photographs, touching testimonies, and strong appeals for funds to help support their multi-million dollar budgets. Compare that to the HFP monthly newsletter. On occasion it shows up in color, thanks to a generous donor...but for the most part it's black and white, just one sheet with printing on both sides. If we could provide photographs, they wouldn't be very pretty. A prisoner with a leaky ileostomy bag begging for assistance in getting a replacement. A prisoner dying of cancer in the infirmary, begging to be home with family and friends in her final hours. A sex offender scared to death by threats from gang members, who doesn't dare leave his cell. A woman begging for extra toilet tissue and sanitary pads because of a medical problem. An inmate doubling over in pain from a hernia that prison doctors refuse

On letting Him do the rest

Pastor Nate straightened out my thinking today. He was talking about Jesus feeding the 5,000. He pointed out that the disciples were not expected to perform a miracle. Jesus went about doing just that: blessing the 5 loaves and 2 little fishes, and turning them into a feast for the crowd. He merely expected the disciples to do what they knew how to do: distribute and serve the food to the people. "That's all he expects of us," explained Pastor Nate. Just do what you know how to do in your ministry. Jesus will do the rest." I needed to hear that. I get so frustrated as we work with prisoners. I want to change the hearts of cruel prison doctors who with-hold treatment or cancel prescriptions. I want to find a way to train guards better so they don't abuse the mentally ill. I want to persuade Parole Board members that dying prisoners are not a threat to society, and should be permitted to die at home surrounded by loved ones, rather than in t

Keeping it in perspective

The mood was somber as son Matt and I discussed the annual HFP auction/fundraiser held this week. "If we were raising money for puppies and kitties we'd have packed the place," grumbled Matthew. Indeed. Fact of the matter is that we drew about 50 people at best. Fortunately for us they were generous friends, and we still raised about $5,000.00. We had hoped to raise at least double that. We deal with these serious prisoner issues on a daily basis, and somehow we think that everyone else is on the same page. We forget that we reside in an all-white, affluent society, and prisoners are not at the top of the popularity list. We're doing our best to educate and inform, but this simply pointed out that we have a long way to go. But back to the title of this little entry. When Matt and I opened the mail, our grumbling turned to gratitude. In two separate envelopes there were two checks from the State of Michigan. The first was a check from a female inmate wh

The highs and lows

When it comes to working with prisoners, I must confess that the lows usually win. It has certainly been that way for the past few months. First Otto ailing inmate who should have been home with his wife. Then Joey died, after a harrowing few days when the prison system refused to keep his wife apprised of daily issues at the end of his life. Then Linda died, a cancer patient who had no business dying in a prison infirmary, when she could have been surrounded by family and loved ones. These are the sucker-punches in this business, and they hurt. But the God of the valley is also the God of the mountains! This morning came the brief message from Herman: I'm going home! Herman is a parolable lifer, 54 years of age. He has served 34 years. A Parole Board agreed to give him parole once before, but then administrations changed in our state, and the new administration vetoed the decision. Can you imagine the heart-break? Prisoners contacted HFP and asked us

When thanks isn't deserved

I received such a kind note today from the wife of a prisoner, and I honestly felt guilty. Some background. I have worked to help Ray, an African American, for years. He's wrongly convicted, and he has now been in prison for 40 years. Ray is a fine, fine artist. He has painted beautiful murals in some of Michigan's prisons, and has gained the appreciation and respect of many of the prison staffers. He's a kind, gentle man who has many friends inside and outside of prison. I have sent letters on behalf of HFP to the Parole Board. I have featured many of his pieces of art in a prison art show. I have a treasured piece of his, painted just for me, hanging in the office. I drove to Detroit to attend an all-day symposium with participants from the US and Canada---attorneys, innocence people, journalists, investigators. Everyone was convinced of his innocence, and everyone pledged to work hard. But eventually everyone found other things to do, as it became appa

Jesus wept

The only time we read in the Bible about Jesus breaking down and weeping is over a death. Somehow, I think he's still weeping over deaths...especially deaths of prisoners. My heart breaks when we receive word of deaths behind bars. Our recent blog entries have discussed the deaths of Otto and Joey. We discussed those deaths in our recent newsletter. The sadness of those deaths didn't sweep over just family and swept right into the HFP office. And we were just recovering when two women in the Huron Valley facility---the only facility in the State of Michigan to house women---reported this weekend that Linda had died. She was in the infirmary with cancer, and for some reason, no one could persuade the Parole Board to let her go home to die. I just don't understand this stuff. I don't mean to digress, but I keep thinking of pieces I read in the newspaper about parolees who got out only to re-offend. They agree to release these people, but refuse

A special kind of doctor

I was in a meeting with officials from the Michigan Department of Corrections, Hospice of Michigan, and Corizon...the health care provider for Michigan prisons. A hospice official asked Mason Gill, VP of Michigan operations for Corizon, about prison doctors. Gill responded that it takes a very special kind of doctor to serve in the prisons. I'll second that motion. Let me tell you about a special kind of doctor. Mr. D. had been complaining about severe pain from a hernia for weeks. Finally, the large lump in his abdomen started turning color and the pain became unbearable. Mr. D. doubled over in pain and started vomiting. He was rushed by ambulance to a local hospital, and then transferred to one of the major hospitals in Lansing. There a surgeon discovered there was not only one, but two hernias...and that the major hernia was causing problems with the colon. He was very upset with the prison healthcare people for letting the situation get to this stage. The surgeon