Posts Tagged ‘Calvary’

img_8514To the people of Calvary Church and Shelby,

My name is Michael and I’m currently housed in the Centre County Correctional Facility. I’ve been incarcerated since March of 2015. I was 18 years old then, now I’m 20 and approaching my release date. I’m currently sentenced to 23 months and 29 days. As I’ve spent time here I started my journey of recovery. My drugs of choice are heroin and bath salts.

Recently I have been introduced to the Bible, the book of God. I’ve been familiar with the 12 steps of NA and I was able to get a recovery Bible. I’m a new believer and I read my Bible and pray every day. My faith is a little rocky but as I continue my journey God seems to send signs of strength to me. I’ve spent 2 Christmas holidays in jail, the first was a hassle and I was not sure how to respond to an act of kindness from people I don’t know. Calvary Church sent Christmas bags and it was the first time I felt like I mattered. I’ve felt that I didn’t matter, that a convicted felon was forgotten even though I’m a person with a family and hopes and dreams.

I’m older now and I’ve grown and matured mentally, emotionally and physically. I’ve taught myself to appreciate the small things and remain grateful for all things. I would like to say I am grateful for Calvary Church. I’m grateful for the gifts they sent all of the inmates. I’m grateful for all the time, money, and effort that was put into making the Christmas bags possible. It means a lot to me that total strangers put together gifts for people who are often shunned and looked down upon by society. It hurts to say that but it’s the truth. I committed my crime as a minor and was charged as an adult. I made a mistake because I needed to support a habit. As a 17 year old kid I wasn’t able to worry about the consequences of my actions. I’m really grateful that God has put me through these tough times so I could grow. If it weren’t for God I would not be writing this letter of thanks and gratefulness. Thank you Calvary Church for all that you do for us inmates. I’ve already met one member (Shelby) and I’d like to meet more. 

Sincerely, Michael

*His name has been changed and spelling corrected, but otherwise this is just a copy of what I received. Since it was addressed to the whole church I thought this was the best way to get it out to the most people. Thanks to everyone who was a part of this…there are way too many people who gave that I cannot reach you all and am so very grateful.

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This week I have been really thinking about what I do for a living. I love people. I serve people. I give rides, help clean, supply food, hang out, fight for, coordinate events, and pray for people. When working in outreach I think it can sometimes get overwhelming as my job isn’t 9-5. Sometimes I work those hours, other times I have meetings at night, have to give someone a ride in the middle of my office hours, host movie nights, make phone calls from a homeless shelter. Sometimes it’s hard to tell when I’m “on duty” and when I’m “off duty”. 

As I was pondering this a thought it hit me, should I ever be off duty from outreach? From loving and serving those around me? Who am I reaching out to? I have ‘clients’ I guess you could say who call me when they need help. I have homeless friends I find on the street and invite down to the shelter for a meal. I have elderly I call and chat with so they know they are not alone in the world. I have people in jail who I write letters to. But that’s not all I have.

I have a family I live with (and one that I don’t) and love them with all of my heart and I want to love and serve them well too. I should not be ‘off duty’ when I come home. I have friends who need to be heard just as much as those elderly I call. My coworkers have many things they are a part of that I believe in and want to excel. My international friends are not behind bars, but would probably love mail almost as much a my friends in jail. When I read the verses below I just don’t see them being sectioned off to one group of people. It’s a lifestyle…

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.” – Ephesians 6:7

“Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” – Romans 12:13

“…do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” – Galatians 5:13 NIV

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”                 – Mark 10:45

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” – Romans 12:10

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Philippians 4:4 

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:10 

So I guess if I were to challenge myself or you I would say this, live every moment the best you can. Make the most of the opportunities put in front of you. Love well – if you’re at work, at home, or at the grocery store. The people around you notice. Share Jesus love through your words, your smile, a hug, a listening ear, your strong muscles moving boxes, sharing a meal, cleaning….just share Jesus.
Sometimes people say mean things. 
Sometimes people make bad choices.
Sometimes people lie.
Sometimes people mean to do good things but still do bad things.
Sometimes people try to be nice, sometimes they don’t care.
Sometimes it’s easy to try to avoid people who are like that.
It’s easy to want to stay away from the troubling ones. 
It’s easy to be nice the first time and then say their chances are used up.
It’s easy to be a friend to the people who are friendly.
 
But that’s not what God asked me to do. 
 
See God put me into a roll to work with people in need. He didn’t just say that I should work with people who are trying to get out of need, but to help the hurting. All of them. Any He puts into my life. I don’t get to pick which ones. It doesn’t matter if they are nice to me or not.

 
This past Sunday Pastor Dan preached on Acts 6-8. The stoning of Stephen. 
He challenged us to be Stephens.
See in this story Stephen is killed because he is all in for Christ.
I bet some of his friends or relatives wished he would’ve made the ‘smart choice’ and just stopped talking about Jesus so that he could have lived. But Stephen knew that being all in for Christ and following no matter what the cost was of way more value than living to see the next day. It isn’t that Stephen went out looking for trouble, but that he held fast to what he believed even if it meant people were throwing rocks at him. I believe that God has called me to love. 
And so I press on. 
 
Not because it’s easy or everyone I know thinks it’s the right thing, but because I want to be all in for Christ.
 
Pastor Dan also challenged us to be Pauls.
In this part of the story Paul is still called Saul and he’s there with the people who are throwing the stones.
He’s happy to see Stephen being taken down, but he doesn’t stay that way.
He later comes to know Jesus as his Savior.
And he becomes one of the most influential people christianity has ever known. 
I bet a lot of people had given up on him.
I bet some people didn’t want to share life with him anymore.
But he saw past his circumstances and his past and he chose to be all in for Christ. 
 
No matter what place in life you are in you can chose to start being all in for Christ. 
 
After church I had a great afternoon and then we had an evening prayer service where there was a bowl with a bunch of verses written out on papers and we could just take one. I didn’t really want one, but I took one anyway and guess what, God just used it to prove His point. He doesn’t want part of my heart, He wants me to be all in. It said…
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I’m choosing to listen. I will love, do good, bless and pray even when I don’t feel like it. I know I’ll mess up, but I will keep coming back to Christ because I want to be all in for Him. A verse that has been going through my head lately is Colossians 1:29 “To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.” – I’m so thankful to be on God’s team and to know that He’s the one doing all the work, I just have to let him. So when things are smooth sailing or when they get tough He’s still in control. And that is wonderful.