Tuesday, May 5, 2015

One little starfish at a time

Really?  Support still another prison ministry?  Naw, can’t do it.  Already helping Forgotten Man Ministries, Crossroad Bible Institute, Prison Fellowship.  Enough is enough.

HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS?  Do we really need another prison ministry?  What are they doing that the others aren’t?

Another prisoner advocacy agency?  There’s a bunch of them in Michigan already.  Aren’t they all doing pretty much the same thing?

Be assured:  The last thing we would ever do is bad-mouth another prison ministry or another prisoner advocacy organization.  God bless EVERYONE and EVERY PROGRAM doing things to help people behind bars.  But also be assured:  The first thing we will do in a discussion like this is demonstrate not only our usefulness but our importance!

Let me give you two examples of pleas for help that crossed my desk in the past few days.

Anna is a 77 year old grandmother who shouldn’t be in prison any longer.  She has already served 27 years.  But now she’s in a wheelchair with a lot of pain.  She can’t take most pain meds because they conflict with a serious kidney condition.  Her pain only worsens when she must make the long trip to the chow hall for meals, over cracked sidewalks and bumpy roads outdoors.  Her simple request for help:  She would like meals brought to her, a service that is provided for some inmates.  But the system feels she can go get her own food and so far has denied her request.  In her letter to me, she said:  “So, I have to find a way to feed myself or go without.”

Judy is the mother of a mentally challenged inmate in the women’s prison.  Her daughter has been treated cruelly by prison staff and has been sadly abused.  I checked in with her this week just to see how she’s doing, and how her daughter is doing.  Here are her brief comments:

  The warden is refusing me visits, as she is one-on-one.  So, I haven’t been in to see her since January 26.

  The therapist was on vacation for a couple weeks and has been back for a couple weeks.  She has not responded to my email or phone calls.

  The chief of the acute unit has not responded in the last month.

  I am in the dark.  Other than the phone call from another inmate who is nowhere near my daughter.

Two simple requests:  to have meals delivered to an elderly, crippled grandmother;  and to allow a mother to visit her mentally ill daughter.  You wanna know which prison ministry and which prisoner advocacy agency will handle these little matters?  HFP.  To you and me, these may seem like little issues in the overall scheme of things, but think again.  Just ask Anna.  Just ask Judy.

I love to tell the story of the little girl on an ocean shore as the tide was going out, leaving behind lots of starfish struggling on the sand.  The child was picking them up and placing them back in the water so they could survive.  An elderly man, also walking the beach, came up to her and said, “Little girl, do you know how long this coastline is, and do you know how many thousands and thousands of starfish are stranded on the sand?  You can’t possibly make a difference.”  The child looked down for a second, picked up a tiny starfish and threw it back out into the ocean.  “I made a difference for that one,” she said!

That’s our work.  One little starfish at a time.  We’re in the trenches, holding the hands of “the least of these.”  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  This is Jesus work.  And we can’t do it alone.

No comments: