Three peculiar things happened this Wednesday.
1. HeartBound was able to bring 4 former inmates back to Burruss Correctional Training Center to serve a Thanksgiving feast to 56 incarcerated men and boys.
2. A Muslim student asked me if he could work with HeartBound when he is released.
3. Zachary, one of the volunteers that went to Burruss today, wasn’t recognized by the staff - despite having been incarcerated at Burruss for nearly three years.
Reflecting on these moments, I’m struck with the following thoughts.
1. How great is our God that He would bless this ministry so abundantly, that we not only have the resources to provide food to 56 incarcerated men, but that our ministry has built enough credibility with the Department of Corrections for them to allow us to bring back former inmates to share their testimony at the same facility that locked them up.
2. God is on the move in our ministry. Even the Muslims want to get involved because they recognize that what we have is real.
3. Zachary went unnoticed by his former guards because when he was incarcerated, they didn’t see him as a person, rather, they saw him as an inmate.
I’d like to elaborate on that third point.
Zachary was massively apprehensive about his first return visit to prison, and who could blame him? As one returned citizen, Derrick, puts it, “post prison trauma” is real. Zachary had spent some of his formative years at Burruss, serving time for a crime that he committed in his youth. He had earned his GED at Burruss, taken college classes, gone through mentoring with HeartBound chaplains Omar and John. When he walked through the door at Burruss as a free man today, the guard wanded Zachary down and said with a smile, “Welcome to Burruss, work hard and stay out of prison.” I chuckled; Zach was stone-faced. As soon as we cleared security, he told me that the same guard smiling at him used to treat him quite unkindly.
As we continued through the facility, none of the staff recognized Zach. These are people who saw him nearly every day for three years. These are people who were responsible for counseling him, making sure he received adequate healthcare, ensuring he hadn’t escaped! And not one of them so much as glanced twice at him!
How is this possible?
All too often, incarcerated people go unseen, even by those in charge of keeping them. And that’s unfortunate because you have to see someone to meet their needs. We saw Zach while he was in prison, and we poured into him. After prison, we helped Zach with budgeting, housing, mentoring, and more. And now Zach is giving back. And we couldn’t be happier.
This Thanksgiving and holiday season, my prayer is that we will see each other as God’s beautiful creations. Let’s commit to loving the unlovable, seeing the unseen, and restoring the broken.
Have a blessed Thanksgiving and know that we are grateful for you.