While pawing through some old stuff, I found an interesting recording the other day.
It was a non-professional recording of the second public performance of HIS MEN, a small male chorus that I started in 1972. With time on my hands during this virus business, that delightful tape led me down memory lane.
It’s very easy for me to beat myself up over some colossal business failures. But that musical treat reminded me of two little success stories, both starting with the letter H: HIS MEN and HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS.
I’d love to boast that I’m a visionary, and could predict that someday these singers would perform in the Crystal Cathedral (they did!), or that someday the HFP team would be touching the lives of thousands of Michigan prisoners (they are!). But that would be a lie. I had no idea whether either project would even survive. Their formation was simply a response to a need, a niche, that I had spotted.
There were many wonderful Christian music groups in the 70s. I saw fine ensembles performing in churches and auditoriums, but didn’t see many singing in the tiny churches on the other side of the tracks, the mission stations, hospitals, nursing homes and jails. I saw them singing to the well-dressed crowds but rarely to the widows, orphans, homeless and incarcerated.
And so, we launched a unique music ministry that specialized in reaching out to the disenfranchised. The voices of these men touched lives around the world for 47 years. You might enjoy a presentation by this stellar group…it’s my final performance as its director, in the Crystal Cathedral:
HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS
30 years later, I started another enterprise also focusing on the poor and needy. Again, a perceived need. There were many fine prison ministries already in existence. There were excellent prisoner advocacy agencies aiming for prison reform. But no one was down in the trenches, trying to help the man or woman in our state prison system in dealing with personal problems. So, we set out in 2001 with a goal of helping inmates, one person at a time, with practical needs. The key ingredient was compassion.
Today, it’s no longer a one-man show handling a couple calls a day, serving a few hundred prisoners. HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS is a viable organization with its own quarters, a staff of 5, a panel of professional advisors, a board of distinguished directors, and a team of caring volunteers. These days, we may respond to 50 calls a day, and we’re serving thousands of Michigan inmates.
But, we’ll never vary from our basic philosophy: humble, simple, action with compassion.
There’s a lesson here. If we see a particular need, it’s important to act
As the Apostle Paul says: …he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…
Or as Mother Teresa says: Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.