Party Time!

May 5, 2018
by JJ Ollerenshaw

Luke 15:10b – There is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (NIV)

This is a verse that I particularly like to share when I am mentoring prisoners by mail through Crossroads Prison Ministries. I mark the Bible lessons that they send me, and then, I write each of them an encouraging letter. It seems to me that a prisoner would take great pleasure and comfort in this verse. He may not have seen a smile in a long time. His family is shocked and disappointed. The police and judge are grave, frowning. Everyone is angry with him; he feels worthless and alone. He is then incarcerated with others who are equally unhappy.

Imagine, then, a prisoner completing his first Bible study and slowly coming to the realization that God loves him and that his sins are forgiven! His education is probably minimal. English might be his second language. He goes to great effort to read and understand both the lesson and the Bible. He prints, in pencil. He misspells words and cannot write his thoughts comprehensibly. He may not have the money to buy a postage stamp. His life is already changing. All things considered, it takes a huge effort and a considerable amount of trust before that lesson finally reaches the mailbag.

Some time later, the chaplain hands him an envelope postmarked hundreds of miles away — already opened. Keep in mind that many prisoners never, ever, receive a letter. Imagine his apprehension. While waiting, he may have worked on the next lesson, but more likely, he is waiting to see if all this is real. Will someone else let him down? Will he be ridiculed, berated, made to feel guilty because he did not answer correctly? Remember that this is the way that he is used to being treated.

The big question, I think, would be, Will God let me down?

What he finds is a letter of compassion and encouragement, with his lesson duly marked by a volunteer. Someone is praying for him! And a word picture: all the angels in heaven lifting their robes, dancing a jig, and clapping each other on the back — Party time! — all because one person, this "nobody", said yes to God. He is finally somebody! He is valuable after all.

I like to imagine his response: a slow grin lighting up a hardened or tear-stained face. Right then, that cell must be lit up with a thousand-watt lightbulb. But because of his untrusting nature, he will go straight to the Bible to be sure that it is true.

It is.

I will never hear from that prisoner again. Next week, I receive a lesson from another prisoner in another prison, somewhere else in Canada. I go through the same process: pray, mark the lesson, write encouraging words. I don't know what crime they committed. I don't need to know. All I know is that the angels are having a party, as they did for me, and also for you when you repent and invite Jesus to take control of your life — and set you free!

Hebrews 13:3 – Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (NIV)

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You, too, know what it is like to be sentenced. Give us the opportunity to shine Your light in dark places and to cause the angels to rejoice. Amen.

About the author:

JJ Ollerenshaw <sandjollie86@gmail.com>
Belleville, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    A great word JJ.


    Thanks for sharing your thoughts in this devotional with us. Blessings.


    JJ,
    Great devotional as I can relate to this since I’m in similar ministry.


    You are doing a great mission. Keep up you good work. Love your devotions.
    (Ontario)


    Sadly enough, a person doesn’t have to be incarcerated to actual feel the kind of isolation and despair that a prisoner might experience. There are many lonely and isolated people out there who are also abandoned by society.


    What a wonderful message!
    In my younger days I was involved in a contemporary worship ministry and we did some services in prisons.
    Sol I really relate to this.
    Bless you for what you are doing for prisoners


    Thank you for your joyful message today. What a wonderful ministry you are involved in! I have not heard of that ministry before. I would be interested in knowing how to get involved.
    I write occasionally to a young Christian woman in prison in BC whom I met once on a small group visit.
    May God give you wisdom and increase the blessing of the work you do!


    Hello
    I love the scripture verse! It gets me excited when I get to share also. For several years I volunteered at the church for the Kid’s Camp. I always looked forward to Thursdays because that was the salvation message day. Wow, when God gave me a dream on how to present the lesson to a mixed aged group it was fantastic. First time asking Jesus into their hearts was 63 and we had 120 kids enrolled in the program. And I am so happy to know that at least one boy grew up to be a minister.
    God bless you as you work with these prisoners.
    God bless.


    Good Morning, and Blessings,
    But, it is not “sunny” for 250,000 people in southern Ontario who are without power, and who are facing huge property damage. Prayer is suggested.
    Having read your inspirational devotional, I can envision your attempts at encouraging your readers to spread a little of our sunshine in places where there are dark clouds. And, so we should.
    I am a little concerned with your use of the male pronoun “he” and “him”. It would suggest that all malefactors are men, which we all know is not the case.
    Perhaps a gender-neutral pronoun such as “they” would be fairer to those being penalized?
    Just a thoughts. Bless you for writing.


    Dear JJ,
    You make me curious about the work you do in marking lessons for prisoners. I am a retired school teacher.
    May God keep you writing for his sake and the sake of all who read what you write.


    Hi JJ,
    Prison ministry is a special kind of ministry that I have found not too many people are interested in.
    My husband and I have been involved in prison ministry for many years.
    It is incredible to see these men (in my case always, we were always at a male facility) change, sometimes over years.
    I once heard them say that their families have to visit them, their lawyers and P.O.s have to visit them, but volunteers do not have to visit them and they are blown away when they hear that people will drive
    hours to visit them for an hour.
    I remember one man telling me that he had not received a letter in 7 YEARS!!
    Prison ministry is a blessing to us as well as the men, but like I said, not a lot of people want to do such work.
    Thank you for taking the time, care, prayer, and love to help these men learn to know God and that they are loved by God.
    God bless you and your ministry.


    Dear JJ,
    This is precious: I don’t know what crime they committed. I don’t need to know. All I know is that the angels are having a party, as they did for me, and also for you when you repent and invite Jesus to take control of your life – and set you free!
    Hebrews 13:3 – Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (NIV)
    I pray that God will continue to bless you in writing and others in receiving your writing.


    May God continue to bless you JJ as you are a blessing of His love to others.


    This is sooooo encouraging! Thank you for sharing!! Through our church, I get many of the prayer requests from prisoners in Las Vegas, and many times I am in tears because of their situations. Many are new Christians and I totally believe that even though I may never meet them here, there will be a day of rejoicing in heaven!
    (NV)

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