Two thousand Christmas cards. This holiday season, Beth Michael, director of Christian Pen Pals Ministry, and her army of 100 volunteers are mailing handwritten Christmas greetings to more than 2,000 prison inmates. Inmates who are waiting for someone like you to write to them.
“Christmas is a lonely time. Even if an inmate has family, he often doesn’t hear from them,” Beth says.
Beth and her regular volunteer staff of twelve people receive one hundred and fifty requests every week from inmates seeking a Christian pen pal. She and her staff read every request, often matching over 1500 inmates a year with someone from “the outside” who is willing to write to them.
Even at this rate, inmates must often wait for two years to be matched with a pen pal. Ideally, Beth would like to see them matched with a pen pal within six months. But there are not enough volunteers.
Why don’t more believers care to write to inmates? After all, followers of Christ have a mandate to minister to “the least of these,” don’t we?
“I think fear of the unknown is a big factor, or the idea that everyone in prison is a hardened criminal and wouldn’t listen anyway. People also worry that their inmate pen pal might get out and do something bad to them,” Beth says.
I asked her to respond to these concerns.
“We always match people with an inmate who is far away in another state, for one thing. In all these years, I’ve never had anyone say that someone has bothered them. The other hindrance to people writing to inmates is the thought that the inmates deserved what they got and they need to suffer and pay for what they did. But God is a merciful God and loves the prodigal son. That’s His father’s heart.”
Beth began her ministry by writing to one inmate, Richard, in 1989, in obedience to Hebrews 13:3.
“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
Since that first pen pal letter, God has used one person’s faithfulness to expand this ministry into the vital force it is today, reaching thousands of inmates across the nation with the life-changing Word of God. What could God do through you?
Read Beth Michael’s book, Your Cry Has Been Heard to hear the stories of inmates whose lives have been changed through people like you who took the time to care.