Prisoners’ Children

Hearing Their Voices

Note: This commentary was delivered by Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley.

One of the critical elements of a biblical worldview is the value Jesus places on the sanctity and worth of each human life. Such a view is always put to the test, however, when applied to those whose utility or value to society are in question. Hence, an unwanted child facing an abortion or a Terry Schiavo unable to enjoy the same quality of life as you or me is given little, if any, protection in our society.

Children often fall into a similar category. Viewed as a rug-rat kind of nuisance by some, or a colossal burden for taxpayers by others, they are many times pushed aside. Such is often the case with prisoners’ children.

Many adults feel they have no hope. So why bother?

Jesus faced this cavalier attitude from the disciples who tried to keep children away from Him. Jesus rebuked them and gave them a response that rings through the ages: “Let the little children come to me!”

At Prison Fellowship, through the ministry of “BreakPoint” and the work we do with policymakers in Washington, we seek to encourage lawmakers and policymakers to uphold the sanctity and dignity of all human life. In addition, through our Angel Tree ministry, we minister to the children of prisoners in the name of Jesus through Angel Tree Christmas, Angel Tree camping, and Angel Tree mentoring.

Last week, the value of children, specifically the importance of mentoring a prisoner’s child, got a big boost. President Bush and the first lady invited Prison Fellowship and three other organizations involved in mentoring prisoners’ children to a roundtable discussion and a speech that he gave in Washington, D.C., on mentoring. I, along with Jillian Atonucci, a student at Grove City College who is mentoring a prisoner’s child through Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program, and her mentee, Brianna, whose father is in prison, sat with the president, the first lady, and nine others for forty-five minutes behind closed doors to share firsthand the importance of mentoring.

After our conversation, the president strode to the podium to a crowd of several hundred and a legion of reporters and, among other things, said the following: “Jillian Antonucci is with us. She joined the Prison Fellowship Angel Tree Program. That’s a program that exists in order to help a child whose parent may be or has been in prison. It’s a great program, by the way.”

The president went on to say in his remarks, “You learn that a single soul can make a difference in a young person’s life. That’s what you learn. America can change one heart, one soul at a time.”

And indeed, we can. As millions from across the globe have stood in line for days to pay respects to John Paul II, the greatest pro-life voice of our generation, perhaps the spirit of God is stirring His people to shun a culture of death and despair and to embrace the sanctity and dignity of all human life — including a prisoner’s child.

In the meantime, we will continue to give our voice and time to this effort. Will you join us?

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