Episode 019: CF Hazelwood, The Importance Of Prison Ministry Expressed By A Former TDJC Director

web-bio-hazlewoodIn this nineteenth episode of the Detention to Redemption podcast, I interview CF Hazelwood, from Huntsville, Texas. CF Hazelwood is a pastor, prison ministry leader and the current Program Supervisor of the Core Values Program inside the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Correctional Training and Staff Development Department. Before he took this role he served as a Correctional Sergeant and as the Texas Department Criminal Justice Director of Manufacturing and Logistics. CF shares with us his testimony of coming to Christ through the influence of Christian inmates. He has 30 + years of experience in corrections and shares with us his wealth of knowledge and his passion to see the incarcerated turn their lives to Christ. Also in 2008 CF Hazelwood received the Governor of Texas Volunteer Service Award in 2008 for prison ministry. I loved talking to CF and I believe you will be blessed by what he shares!

SHOW NOTES

Texas Department of Criminal Justice

Behind the Walls

The Fellowship of Huntsville Church

If you have been touched by the music that is shared during this podcast you can buy an album that was written and recorded inside of prison at “Another Captive Free.”

Pray For The Needs Of The Families Of The Incarcerated

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Join me in prayer this week for the needs of families across this world who has loved ones that are incarcerated. Pray that they would reach out and become involved in a local church with solid Bible teaching and receive support and encouragement from caring Christians. Pray that the children would experience God’s comfort and presence in their loneliness and feel secure and loved by their caregivers. Pray that the caregivers would provide a loving and nurturing environment for the children and shun drugs and alcohol and seek to live healthy and sober lives. Pray that churches in communities across the nation would sense God’s calling to become Angel Tree churches and see the need to evangelize and disciple the children in their neighborhoods.

Thank You For Another Year

thAnother year has come and gone since Thanksgiving 2015. What a year it has been! Many things have changed in the last year, some good and some not so good. But at this Thanksgiving time I want to consecrate on the things that we can be thankful for. In this last year I have seen men who for the first time surrendered their lives to Jesus. I have also experienced a large interest from men wanting mental and spiritual growth! When I think of some of these men, one comes to mind whom I would like to share his story with you.

Sam is an older man that lives in our Faith Based Honor Dorm and has been locked up for a long time. Due to Sam’s rough family life, he and his sisters grew up in the foster care system and lost contact with each other as they were dispersed into multiple foster homes. After reaching adulthood Sam continued to live his life the best he could and was delighted when he found out that he was about to be a father to a little girl. Her birth meant the world to him since he really didn’t have anyone else he could call his own. His life with his little girl was short lived when he found himself sitting in a jail cell after being arrested for murder. Broken by their separation he recalls spending many of his nights crying, wishing he could be with her, hold her and love her. He wondered would he ever get to be at her high school graduation? Would he ever be able to teach her how to drive her car? Would he be able to walk her down the aisle at her wedding?  These questions never stopped they haunted his every day and his every night? Nothing could erase them not even the exhausting court appearances and the final life without parole sentence. Once in prison he had his daughters’ mother bring her to see him as often as she was able, but one day many years later he got a phone call that devastated him.  The phone call was from his daughter as she informed him of his worst fear, his precious girl was pregnant. She was still so young, why would she allow this.  His prayer had always been that his daughter would find a kind Christian man that she would marry before she would get pregnant. It seemed as if his prayers hadn’t been heard. Knowing her father would probably be upset she went on to inform him that her mother had told her to move out of the house because of it. Angered and disappointed he told her that he was deeply upset and hung up the phone. Several days later he received a letter with these words from his daughter written on it. “I thought you would understand but you turned your back on me just like everyone else. Consider this to be my last correspondence with you ever. Your grandchild will never be told about you, so do not try to ever reach out to us.” Sam knew instantly that his daughter was serious and that he had messed up any chances to ever have her in his life again.

Now you may think why is this story something to be thankful for.  The reason that I share Sam’s story is because that’s not the end of his story. This last year after being in prayer for some time he received a letter from his sister whom he had last seen as a child.  She had found him through a Google search and wanted to hopefully build a relationship with him. He was overjoyed and began talking to her on a regular basis sharing his story. His sister being touched by all that had happened decided to try to find his estranged daughter and talk to her. She was successful and the two also began a regular dialogue. After some time his daughter decided that she should at least send her dad a note even though she was still angry with him and friends that is where the healing process began. This last year Sam went from having no family in his life to now this Thanksgiving having his sister and daughter visiting him at the prison. He is overjoyed to see how God has redeemed his family and whenever I see him around he always stops and gives me a hug and says, “Thank You for praying!”

This Thanksgiving I am grateful to serve a God that loves us even when we mess up. I am thankful for a God that is in the redeeming business and allows me to have a front row seat to see these redemption stories daily. I am also grateful for the many people who give of their resources to make it possible for me to be able to serve in this capacity. Thank You!

Praise God For Our Family Nights!

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As we prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow with our families, I can’t help but think back over the past three weeks and the family nights that we had at the prison that I serve at.  These nights will never be forgotten for many as their plates were filled with absolute deliciousness which is something that is hard to come by inside of prison. For some their families joined them and others were blessed with the fellowship of Christian volunteers as they all partook of a thanksgiving feast which included ham, smoked turkey, dressing, green beans, macaroni and cheese, squash casserole, potato salad, cranberry sauce, fresh cut tomatoes, and dessert. It was a success praise God, no one left hungry, families were reunited, friendships were made, and God was glorified!

Join me today as you prepare for Thanksgiving, in giving thanks to God above for these nights! Pray that God would continue to work through the friendships that were built and that these men’s hearts would turn towards their one and only Savior Jesus Christ!

Episode 018: Fernando Gerrel Jones, From Incarceration To Counseler And Ministry Leader

fernando-gerrel-jonesIn this eighteenth episode of the Detention to Redemption podcast, I interview Fernando Gerrel Jones, from Birmingham, Alabama. Fernando shares with us about his former incarceration and how today his passion is helping others who have been incarcerated. Working at one the State’s largest re-entry ministries, Fernando counsels formerly incarcerated men daily and works tirelessly to support them in their success.  Only four years since his release, Fernando does not stay away from prison but makes every effort to also minister to those still behind bars. Although he is busy he has still found the time to author two books, “The Hole” and “Foolish Things”. “The Hole” is a fictional book about an horrible crime against the soul of a young man that leads to a life of deception while he waits for an opportunityfoolish-things to take his vengeance out on his victimizer. Reading this book forces you to realize that often times we ourselves are to blame for the limitations we put on ourselves while conveniently holding others accountable for our actions. The inability to forgive makes it easy for us to limit ourselves while subconsciously rationalizing that it is someone else’s fault. The Hole is a blueprint for how God’s grace and one’s ability to forgive can unlock the full human potential in all of us. His second book “Foolish Things” asks the question “What would God do with our penal systems?” It is a mix of biographical truth and hopeful imagination that come together to inspire us to examine the-holethe way we look at the incarcerated. Links to buy these books are below! You will be encouraged by this man’s zeal and excitement in prison ministry.

 

SHOW NOTES

Phuema Gallery

Offender Alumni Association

The Foundry Ministries

The Hole (Book)

Foolish Things (Book)

 

If you have been touched by the music that is shared during this podcast you can buy an album that was written and recorded inside of prison at “Another Captive Free.”

Praising God For A Great Kairos Weekend

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Last weekend I was humbled to be participate with the Kairos ministry team at the prison that I serve at. We had selected twenty four men to go through this weekend which promised to be a life changing time for many of these men. It was just that, many men were sincerely touched by the love shown by the Kairos team and all were challenged to live a life for Christ.

This week join me in praise to God for a successful Kairos weekend and also join with me in prayer for the twenty four men that attended and were challenged. Pray that these men wouldn’t ever forget the Gospel message that they heard and would surrender their lives to Christ! Pray that the church at the prison would surround them and continue loving and discipling them in the weeks and months to come. Pray that strong Christian leaders would be born out of this weekend. Men that wouldn’t chose to be quiet about their new found faith but instead seek to lead others to Christ also.

An Attack on Family

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One of the institutions that God designed in this world is family. We know from looking around us that family is under attack in this world. In fact I believe it is on the top of Satan’s to do list to destroy this institution. He seeks to turn husband against wife, wife against husband, children against parents, parents against children and sadly He has been successful. The divorce rate is around 50 % and there are approximately 18 million children across the United States growing up in fatherless homes. Many of these fatherless homes are due to the fact that over a million fathers are incarcerated in the United States. This is the very reason why I believe courses like “Inside Out Dad” are important inside of prison. I have made this course from National Fatherhood Initiative, a priority in the prison I serve at because I want to help fathers increase their involvement, responsibility and commitment to their children and the mothers of their children even while incarcerated.

Another interesting fact is that the family is one of this country’s most valuable weapons in fighting crime. Prisoners who receive visitors, maintain family ties, and are released to a stable home environment are more likely to succeed in leading productive, crime-free lives. Families provide an incentive for prisoners to grow, learn, and change. It’s not always easy, but parents in prison can contribute positively to a child’s upbringing through letter writing, phone calls, and family visits. This is why it is important to pray for the families of the incarcerated and help them remain connected if at all possible.

I believe one of the overlooked set of people in this world is the families of the incarcerated. When the father goes to prison it creates a void in the home. There is really no way to replace it! I would like to challenge us as Christians to reach out to the families of the incarcerated. They are all around you, it may be your neighbor, the person you work with, or the family you attend church with. Reach out to them, not with a self-righteous attitude but with a caring one. They get judged daily by people just because their father has been incarcerated. When you caringly ask a mother how her child is coping with her father’s incarceration and offer to pray for the family, this is as much a ministry as sending children to summer camp or providing Christmas gifts. In fact, it may be even greater. We as Christians need to make time to boldly bring the needs of prisoners’ families before the throne of God! Or maybe you’re okay with the status quote. I’M NOT!

Pray For The Upcoming Kairos Weekend

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“But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? Ezekiel 18:21-23

This coming weekend we will be having a Kairos weekend! Kairos is an interdenominational Christian ministry that comes into St. Clair twice a year for a 3-day short course in Christianity. It begins with a spiritual introduction on Thursday evening and then continues through Sunday afternoon. This ministry aims to bring Christ’s love and forgiveness to all the men that participate. Kairos is a Greek word for time and is used in the sense of a time set by God for a particular occurrence. This weekend we have chosen 30 men from St. Clair that have never went through this weekend before to participate in this time set by God. Pray that these men will find God this weekend and experience His love for them! Pray that these men would be affected by this love, repent, turn from their sins and surrender their lives to Jesus.

Pray that everything would run smoothly and God would be glorified!

Episode 017: Dove Morgan Schmidt, Formerly Incarcerated Richard Bear Morgan’s Journey Of Faith

doe-morgan-schmidtIn this seventeenth episode of the Detention to Redemption podcast, I interview Dove Morgan Schmidt, from Bristow, Oklahoma. Dove shares with us her love for the incarcerated and how that through her marriage to an incarcerated man her eyes was opened to the trials these men and women face when they are released. She shares about the journey and conversion of her late husband Richard “Bear” Morgan. Bear’s story of change is one of God’s grace and love for all, even those who chose to work against Him. Dove shares the struggles that her late husband faced of being institutionalized. Dove not only encourages us to engage in prison ministry but also offers words of wisdom and encouragement to the families of the incarcerated. Through much struggle Bear and Dove were able to make it and wrote two books about their journey. You will be blessed by Doves love and compassion for the incarcerated.

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SHOW NOTES

Loving Hearts Ministries

Coalition of Prison Evangelistsyou-can-make-it

Kairos

Concrete Mama (Book)

 

If you are interested in Dove’s books “A Bear and A Dove” or“You Can Make It When You Get Out” please request them by writing to Loving Hearts Ministries P.O. Box 928 Bristow, Oklahoma 74010.

 

If you have been touched by the music that is shared during this podcast you can buy an album that was written and recorded inside of prison at “Another Captive Free.”

Pray For Our Upcoming Family Nights

turkey-plateNovember will be a busy month inside the prison that I serve at, as we are hosting family nights for our Faith/Character Based Honor Dorm. The next three weeks these men have the opportunity to have a Thanksgiving meal with their families. This proves to be a special time for these men and their families! I went around to the men the other week and asked several of them how long it has been since they had Thanksgiving with their families. The responses that I received were heart breaking. One guy mentioned that his mother was coming all the way from Colorado to have Thanksgiving with him and the last time he had Thanksgiving with her was when he was 17 years old, 26 years ago. Another mentioned that he and his wife only had Thanksgiving together once in their 15 years of marriage. Then there was the dad that told me the story of how he was incarcerated before the birth of his 5 year old son and that this would be the first time ever to sit down together for Thanksgiving. There are many more testimonies much like these and I am excited to see God work in the hearts of these men and their families in the coming weeks. Families are under attack in our world and I am humbled to be part of an effort to help restore the family institution!

Pray that the wounds and brokenness in these families will be healed and that God would restore them back to each other. Pray that this time wouldn’t only be a time of food and fellowship but a time of grace and forgiveness. Pray for those who may not have families coming to be with them. The sadness and loneliness they feel is increased during the holidays. This year we want them to feel as if they also have family. We have invited Christian volunteers to come and eat and fellowship with them so that they may not feel alone. Pray that relationships would be formed during their time together and that God would turn their sadness into happiness this Thanksgiving!