A challenge to provide kindness…all the way from Texas, of all places!
I can’t think of many good ideas from Texas, but here’s one!
I was recently contacted by a wonderful prisoner advocacy agency in the UK. They had heard about my experience with a death row prisoner in 2007. Charles Anthony Nealy and I were friends…he was a client of ours. Then he asked me to be his “spiritual advisor” at the time of his execution. While I loved Anthony, the experience was wretched!
Anyway, the 30-minute interview reminded me of one very nice memory in Texas: a mission project, and it could and should be done here.
On the day of Anthony’s execution, Marcia and I were invited to take a break at a place called the Hospitality House, in Huntsville, Texas. It was a beautiful facility erected and maintained by a Christian group in that state. I’ll explain it, then try to stir up some interest.
Many visitors at a state prison are from out-of-town. Some families and loved ones travel long distances to make such a visit. That was true in Texas, and it’s especially true here in Michigan where we have correctional facilities in far-flung parts of the Upper Peninsula. Many friends and relatives of prisoners are not wealthy people. It’s difficult and costly to make a long trip to a prison.
Well, these caring people in Texas erected a facility to provide overnight housing for prison visitors. I stress the word “overnight.” Homeless folks can’t just move in, for example. The place is well organized and well run. Now let me describe this facility.
Beautiful, clean bedrooms and bathrooms! Probably nicer than many visitors have at home. Keep in mind, now, that this is not a hotel. You don’t get room service, or maid service. In addition to the nice bed and bathroom, there is a huge kitchen, fully stocked. Again, it’s not a restaurant, there’s no chef, and you don’t get served. BUT, there’s always a giant cauldron of wonderful soup simmering on a large, commercial stove. And, there’s a variety of food products and snacks in the cupboards and the refrigerator. It’s up to you to prepare the food, but there’s no cost. Besides that, the coffee pot is always on, and the coffee is fresh! Everything is free, including lodging!
One other feature of this house is the giant, living area. Beautiful couches, comfortable chairs, quiet, secluded areas to meditate, contemplate and rest. Clergy of various faiths and counselors are available upon request, again without any charge or fee.
There are always staff members in the building, but they don’t get in your face. They are there to keep the place clean, change the bedding, answer questions, etc.
Just think what a blessing this could be in places like Muskegon, or Ionia, or Jackson, or Kincheloe, where we have multiple prisons!
It would be a costly venture, and it would be costly to maintain…but what an incredible ministry!
Let’s pray that some individuals and organizations that have the means and a heart for the incarcerated will give this some consideration.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in… Mathew 25:35