Everyday Miracles

  Thirteen years ago, James Corder was convicted of murdering his stepmother and was sent to prison in Iowa. From the beginning, Corder insisted they had the wrong man—a claim his family fervently believed. Then James signed up for the InnerChange Freedom Initiative, one of the prisons Prison Fellowship actually runs as a Christian institution—the story of which is being featured in prime time at tonight's Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. Prison Fellowship opened the first InnerChange prison three years ago outside of Houston. The 18-month regimen is far from easy. Inmates, all of whom volunteer for the program, get up at 5 in the morning for devotions. Then they spend their day working at their jobs, or studying for their high school equivalency exams. They also attend classes to develop life skills and to gain spiritual maturity. Evenings are filled with more classes and discipleship seminars that run until 10 p.m.—no TV, no wasted time. During Phase 2 of the program, inmates perform community service, and they're encouraged to repent and to make restitution to their victims. Prisoners are then matched with volunteers from area churches who mentor them during their remaining time in prison. Each mentor spends at least six months after the inmate's release, helping him adjust back into the community. Three months after James Corder signed up for the second program we started, in Newton, Iowa, he found he could no longer live with himself. As Jack Cowley, IFI's national director put it, "James felt the Lord was telling him that if he was going to stay in the program, he would have to stop living a lie. He had to tell his parents he did stab his stepmother to death." That was not easy, for after 13 years of lying, James was concerned about how his parents would react. He asked his fellow inmates to pray with him. When he told his parents the truth, they were indeed shocked, as he expected. But they told James they would continue to love and support him. Well, that confession had a tremendous impact on his fellow inmates. Jack Cowley says, "These were men who wanted to change their lives through Christ, but had no idea what a life in Christ looked like. And here's a lifer who showed a dramatic proof of the reality of Christ. He's a role model." One of many, I might add. I've been in Iowa and Houston several times. I've met lifers who praised the Lord that they're in prison so that they can witness for Christ. I've met hardened criminals, including some six-time losers, who have been transformed totally. I've met men who turned down parole—imagine that—so that they could stay in the prison and complete the program. Do faith-based solutions work? Well, take a look at Houston for an answer. Recidivism in America's prisons is over 70 percent. But in the three years we've run the prison in Houston, 47 men have completed the full 18 months and are now out, in church, at work, and matched with mentors. And not one is back in custody. This is a wonderful testimony to share with those who wonder if faith-based solutions really work. The answer is, "Yes, they do!" And the time has come to replace inefficient government programs with faith-based answers. Not only do these programs work, they afford Christians a great opportunity to show the world the power of our risen Lord.


Chuck Colson


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