(An update from Friday at Angola Prison, by guest blogger Marcy Comstock, Awana Missionary Appointee to Eastern Virginia)
Our morning began early today with a tour of the prison. As we toured some of the 18,000 acres we saw a working farm (with more squash plants than this city girl has ever seen), horse breeding and training facilities (a rodeo is held on prison property by the inmates every spring and fall) tracking dog kennels, barbed wire and the original electric chair for this facility. We learned that everything from rocking chairs to coffins are built on site.
Employees and their families live right on the grounds inside the main gate. The men are housed in “camps” with multiple barracks, cooking and laundry facilities. The thing that struck me the most is that in each “camp” area there was a non-denominational chapel where the church of Angola meets. Each church has it’s own Pastor, an inmate who is a graduate of the Louisiana Baptist Seminary campus on the grounds.
We received an update today on the growth of Malachi Dad’s and Hannah’s gift, including the fact that the Malachi Dad’s program is now in Canada and the Dominican Republic. More and more jails and prisons inside the US have the programs now and Governor Rick Perry has approved starting the program throughout the Texas system. We also learned that a smaller secondary celebration in July will be featured on Fox News by Mike Huckabee.
After lunch we broke into our various groups for specific instructions about our work tomorrow. I’m so excited to be a family assistant which means that I will be spending the day with one of the father’s and his children, encouraging interaction and making sure that their time spent together is safe, enjoyable and appropriate. Other folks in our group were assigned to help run the Awana share store, be a relief person to those running the games and serving as assistants. One gentleman was assigned as a Bleacher Buddy setting with the Father’s whose children don’t make it to the event and counseling them if necessary. We learned that 1035 children have registered to attend tomorrow so please join us in praying that they are able to do so and that their time with their father would be sweet and bring them to the Lord for the first time or closer to him as they build their relationship with their earthly father.
We closed out the day with a graduation ceremony for the Malachi Dad’s class of 2013/2014 which could more accurately be described as a worship service. What really hit home for me was learning that the worship leader was my age and came to trust Christ while incarcerated 12 years ago. That means this gentleman has already spent a third of his life and most of his children’s life behind bars. Even still his heart was to reach his children and the men around him for Christ.
Over 80 men graduated ranging in age from 20 something’s to 60’s. After they received their certificate and lined the front of the chapel stage the joy they have found was more than evident in their faces. Most of these men had received something much more important than a certificate or training in how to be a father, they have been reconciled with their own Heavenly Father. Tomorrow many of them will seek reconciliation with their own children for the first time. Their hope now that they have found the truth of the Gospel is to share it with their children. That is our prayer as well as we participate tomorrow. We want to see fathers have the blessing of leading their children to Christ and build a relationship with them that allows them to be leaders in their family even though they aren’t able to be physically present.
“And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” Malachi 4:6a
Click here to learn more about Returning Hearts, Malachi Dads, and the other ministries of Awana Lifeline.