The President’s Corner
Dr. Romney Ruder, Lifeline President
This summer, I spent some time with members of our church doing a book study on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. If you have not had a chance to read it, I highly recommend it; especially during these times of isolation due to COVID-19. The piece spells out the importance of Christian community and that we belong to one another through and in Jesus Christ.
I certainly agree with the premise of the book. One of my concerns with the pandemic is that the enemy will use our prescribed isolation to help push a wedge into the local communities of faith. While I am thankful for the means to continue reaching people electronically and telephonically, by now we all must realize that it does not make up for the human and spiritual intimacy felt when we are taking part in in-person fellowship. If community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ is the basis for Christianity, what must our brothers and sisters who are behind bars be going through (especially over the past 18 months).
Bonhoeffer says, “It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing. The imprisoned, the sick, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the gospel in heathen lands stand alone. They know that visible fellowship is a blessing”. Unfortunately, most serving behind bars have not felt this blessing for some time. I had the opportunity to get into a local institution a few weeks ago and some men were almost in tears. I had men thanking me for not forgetting about them. It isn’t just the inmate affected. We are seeing and hearing about the significant negative impact COVID-19 protocols have had on guards, Chaplains, and other administrators. Bonhoeffer goes on to say, “The physical presence of other Christians is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer”. Yet men and women behind bars are largely going without much physical presence. While some institutions have bodies of believers behind the walls, gathering is strictly prohibited in most places. So, what are we to do?
I would ask each of you to “Remember the Inmate” in your daily prayers. We serve an all-powerful and just God. He will guide our global community’s response and next steps. But now is an opportunity to let God hear from His people on how much we care about the plight of the incarcerated. Let’s pray this week that we can get volunteers back into institutions. Bonhoeffer says that “the prisoner, the sick person, the Christian in exile sees in the companionship of a fellow Christian a physical sign of the gracious presence of the triune God”.
In the meantime, maybe you might take the time to write to 1 or 2 men or women behind bars and visit with them in this way. For those locked up, knowing that there is a Christian person on the outside to communicate with can help curb the loneliness. A quick google search can help identify ministries that will assist you in facilitating a pen pal in your area.
Finally, continue to support Lifeline Global’s effort to bring Malachi Dads and Hannah’s Gift into every jail and prison around the country. Making available our curriculum to the incarcerated does not replace the human contact of believers, but it offers men and women an outlet of growth and provides an increasing opportunity for them to receive the intimacy of God.
It is so easy during this time to focus on one’s self. However, as Christians we were built for community. We need one another. Let’s make sure we extend our outreach to those who remain more isolated than us.