Since submitting my original meditation, an additional 17,000 bookmarks have been distributed, bringing the total to 204,000 in 372 prisons located throughout all 50 states. A photo of the bookmark and a thank-you note from 25 prisoners at an Arkansas women’s prison are attached. Additional thank-you notes have been received from both prisoners and facility chaplains.
The inspiration for the bookmark program came during an Easter sermon. I was moved to provide a concise statement of Christian beliefs for prisoners, aimed at providing hope, comfort, and a motivation to further investigate the Christian faith. I had previously taught math to prisoners and had always had empathy for incarcerated people. From my teaching experience, I knew that inmates had few possessions and cherished even small things — like bookmarks. I attribute the verbiage and scripture references to divine guidance. Despite my having no formal theological training, these came easily and have been approved by hundreds of chaplains with no corrections.
As a direct result of the bookmark program, I have become pen-pals with a South Carolina prisoner who is serving a life sentence. He has been a prisoner for some 40 years and had no visitors from the outside during the first 35 years. He works in the chaplain’s office, has taken numerous courses, and is currently working on a bachelor’s degree in ministerial services. My interaction with this prisoner has provided valuable insight into prison life and conditions, the factors and decisions that led to his incarceration, and the tremendous losses that result from incarceration. When his petition for parole was recently denied for the 21st time, his response was to further immerse himself in his work in the chaplain’s office with the intent to apply for parole again next year. He recently preached his first sermon to 94 inmates. At the end of his sermon, 84 of them professed their faith at the altar, and 14 became Christians. He credited this to God! I have confirmed his rehabilitation with his chaplain.
My bookmark ministry was an answer to prayer. I have also experienced many other answered prayers over the years. For example, as an additional result of my prayer for guidance on how to serve God in retirement, I was asked to lead a major church renovation. Although this was totally unexpected, I agreed and the project was very successful. Many of my prayers concerning my career and family have been answered, along with prayers for others. I am a strong believer in the power of prayer!
“I believe with all my heart that vulnerability and authenticity are the only way to find wholeness in Jesus Christ. … I believe in the holistic, healing love and salvation in Jesus Christ, who walks with us in the valleys and brings beauty from ash heaps again and again and again. I am here to tell you that I have been on the mountaintops and in the valleys, and I have discovered that we need a reset in our souls. We need to share stories so that others will too. When we’re free to be real, that’s when the real joy comes.” Read more.