Dear Enews Friends,
Upon receiving this communique, most of you will no doubt wonder what day it actually is! Yep, I am sending this email out a day early because I just can’t wait for this weekend to arrive. I think you know why.
Over the past five years, God has done a major work in my life regarding the plight of prisoners. It is embarrassing for me to admit that I spent decades following Christ before I began to follow His instruction to show love toward those behind bars. It pains me to type those words. I have no excuse. I knew better.
But all of that changed when I visited a friend who committed a white-collar crime and had to do some time. He was deeply grateful for my visit, but what he did not know was that God wrecked me on my way home from that experience. The Holy Spirit kept whispering, “We can’t change your past indifference, but your future can be different regarding your engagement with incarcerated men and women.” He was right!
Since that day, I have been in plenty of prisons and have found such joy serving people doing time! Better still, I have enjoyed teaching the Willow congregation how God feels about prisoners and what the Bible instructs us to do. Hebrews 13:3 says, “remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison.” Could the text be more clear?
This weekend, you will have an opportunity to live out this teaching. Near the end of our fantastic services (more about that tomorrow), each of you in the Willow Family—yep, all ministries in all eight of our Willow congregations across Chicagoland—will roll up your sleeves and pack a Christmas present for someone who is going to be alone in a dark cell somewhere in the state of Illinois this Christmas. You will leave church feeling the thrill of aligning your heart with the heart of Christ! Nothing better!
As I close, I ask you to think of four or five family members or friends who would benefit from joining you in this initiative. Take a risk, make the invitation! Who knows what God might do?
In the meantime, I will count down the hours until the first present is packed. And I will thank God for a congregation that does not simply play church but rather steps up to be the hands and feet of Christ to those behind bars. Way to go, Willow!
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