I give praise and thanksgiving to Christ for the opportunity to have redemption through His sacrifice!

For the first time in the history of Lifeline Global Ministries, we hosted a Returning Hearts Celebration (RHC) in the state of Mississippi at Parchman Prison, and due to the wonderful planning and support of volunteers from around the country, I would call the event a success. Enough so that we are already talking about the learning lessons from RHC to help in plannings next year’s event.

Two people who were critical to making RHC happen were Pastor Phil Zalinski and his wife, Tammy. The two of them, their church, and their family are all veterans of the RHCs held at Angola over the years. Although this event was smaller in size than what many had grown used to at Angola, the impact of having it at Parchman will be felt by multiple generations. In fact, seeing that this was an inaugural event, the Returning Hearts at Parchman was just the right size to allow us to key in on the graduates and their children.

But instead of talking about the event, I thought it would be best to share the words of Tammy, who served as the Volunteer Coordinator for this year. She writes:

“(Chaplain) Ron Olivier said, ‘Don’t count the numbers, make the numbers count. Our focus was on the people, making the numbers count!’ Here are stories that were shared with me. These stories represent just a few of those number shapes on the piece of paper. These stories count for the Kingdom of God! 

“Lally emailed me with this story. ‘Jeff and I had the privilege of being in charge of family photos, thanks to Jeff’s idea of creating a one-of-a-kind remembrance for dads and kids. The dads and kids had two photos shot, the first one was a regular photo with smiles, and the next one, they had to make silly faces! That’s when the walls broke down, and they were able to relax and just had fun! After one of the sessions, a little girl reached out and wanted to hug me! I can’t refuse a little girl, so I hugged her back! We had the first table near the door, so we were also able to witness several moments of hugs and kisses between dads and kids! I was in tears and kept on saying only GOD and to HIM be the Glory Forever and Ever!!!’

“Wendy said, ‘While I didn’t meet the young man, I served his mother and aunt in the guardian program. This young man had not seen his dad in five years, though he lives in a town close to Parchman. Saturday was his actual 13th birthday. So he was able to spend his birthday with his father. I just know that God’s timing is EXQUISITE…and this reminds me that this statement is TRUE.’”

God’s timing was exquisite. These stories represent a smidgen of the transformation that took place among the men, their children, and the guardians who had their own event in another portion of the facility. What a fantastic representation of God’s redemption story!

In His Name,

Dr. Romney Ruder

Lifeline Global President

Malachi Dad holding child