UNDERSTANDING NEW CHRISTIANS IN PRISON
blocked out that thought and when a similar occasion came around, I might have hurt another person. Recognizing it and dealing with it, helped me to become a better person.
Laziness - This area will affect everyone in jail and prison. For some, it will not last for long and it will come and go at different times. But for others, laziness cripples them. They end up doing just the bear minimum of routine daily activities to get by. It will be hard for friends and family to recognize this problem because it is easy to disguise it to those on the outside. It is important for a Christian inmate to remain active. There are a number of Bible studies that can be sent through the mail for an inmate to do. He can receive certificates, Bibles, and other items. Family and friends can have a major impact in encouraging and helping those in jail or prison to get involved in these studies. Family and friends should also have an inmate send them their completed studies and certificates to hold for them. The encouragement of seeing and remarking about their progress is very important. Many Christians don’t finish the whole Bible study, because there is no one to encourage them and keep them motivated.
A personal Bible study with someone through the mail helps combat laziness. You can buy your friend or relative a study Bible that is just like the one you use and have different studies together through the mail. Keep in mind that most of the books and papers that an inmate will accumulate in the county jail, he will not be allowed to take with him to prison. So in the county jail, the items need to be limited. Mail in Bible studies and simple daily devotionals such as the Daily Bread are good. Items that they can obtain again later if they are lost are the best for the county jail.
Family - Family and friends on the outside are one of the most important influences in an inmate’s life. The way that family and friends respond to an inmate is a crucial part of his feelings of self worth. Being locked up, takes a large portion of self worth away, but having good moral support on the outside will help build up self worth. For the new Christian, it will help strengthen the desire to grow spiritually in his relationship to God.
Letters, phone calls, and visits, help set attitudes in jail and prison for days or even weeks at a time. Always encourage your friend or relative as much as possible and don’t overly talk about areas of failure. You shouldn’t sugar coat everything either. What is wrong is wrong and what is right is right. Encouraging change is a process that continues through time, so don’t give up or give in.
Rejection is hard to handle at anytime, but exceptionally hard when one is incarcerated. An inmate already feels alone and rejected in general, so when family and friends say, “I’ll write or visit” they need to make sure that it is done. It’s sad how many inmates have been completely devastated because one of their family members said they were coming to visit and then didn’t. Many thoughts can run through a person’s mind, especially in prison. I have had many occasions when family members said they were coming to see me at a certain time and then didn’t make it till later. I had thoughts that they were in an accident or worse. Such disappointment applies to letter writing when people say they’ll write by a certain date and don’t. When that date comes and goes, I start thinking, “Why haven’t they written?” “What did I say that would make them not write?” or “Maybe they have given up on me!” Over time, I have learned to lean on God for comfort and support when disappointed by others. The newer Christian doesn’t have the confidence or faith built up in God yet and will go through a lot of hard times of worry and what ifs. These can be discouraging and a detriment to their growth in Christ.
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