Returning Hearts . . . uniting incarcerated men with their children.
Returning Hearts Celebration is a one day event that will unite children with their prison inmate fathers and grandfathers to begin the long road of breaking the cycle of crime. This fun, carnival-style atmosphere promotes hope, joy, and reconciliation while introducing many kids and their fathers to the gospel.
Received Thursday 9/29/10
I was amazed as I watched the Lord work in the hearts of three ladies at my table.The first lady that sat next to me at the table seemed so open and friendly and truly was happy to be there. Her brother was in Wayside and she had brought her two daughters to see him. It was our turn for crafts and photo taking and I saw her with another volunteer and they were holding hands and praying for her to receive Christ. When they were done praying I hugged her and congratulated her on accepting Christ. Then their was a mother & daughter. They were quiet but seemed to be taking it all in. I had noticed through the day someone talking with the daughter about Christ . . . the seed was being planted. When we were listening to the speaker the daughter had tears in her eyes and my translator asked me if I would take her aside and speak to her. The mother came too. We talked about Christ and they both received him into their lives. It was wonderful to watch as God moved us to bring good news of salvation to them.
Received Thursday 9/28/10
Grandparents are filling the role as parents for some of the inmates at Pitchess. We met some weary, worried, and even frustrated grandparents at our Guardian event. It was beautiful to watch their transformation from anguish to relief, from upset to encouraged. One very distinguished gentleman let me know he had never, in 66 years, been in a Baptist church. He promised to come back some time! His comment, I think, was less about the denomination, and much more about his experience of grace, truth, love, and the amazing presence of the Spirit of God. I was reminded that for every prisoner, entire families are held captive by the incarceration of their loved one. We were grateful to lift the hearts of the invisible heroes of homes where one parent is missing. Pastor Dan Fetters
Received Thursday 9/26/10
The RHC experience at Pitchess Detention Center was amazing. I had the privilege of being a Family Assistant to a remarkably talented, beautiful and bright 8-year old girl. She didn't know about the Bible, or Jesus but she did know love. It had been 9 months since she had seen her father and she did not know that he was incarcerated until the day before the visit. They had a wonderful time together playing carnival games and holding each other so tightly. At the end of the day she wrote a beautiful song that described her memories, her love and her longing to share her dreams with her dad. Her father and I watched her write the song on notebook paper, using alternating crayon colors repeating in a lovely rhythmic array that matched the melody that she created. At the closing, each father was given an age appropriate Bible to present to their child. When she asked me who God was and what is the Bible, the answer that came to mind was her song. The song she wrote was a perfect metaphor, I said, "the Bible is like the love song that you wrote to your daddy, it contains His song of love to us". Jasmine loves her dad fiercely and through the experience I know how exquisite my Father’s love is for me.
Received Thursday 9/25/10
Rudy and Joanne Hawkins
We noticed something was clearly different this year. From our vantage point at the game area, we saw dads exceptionally close to their kids, and kids were just aglow with their dad's presence. Often times, kids and dads were not at crafts, games, or jumping in the blow-ups, but rather were just together under some shade, talking, laughing, hugging and holding each other. It was pure love and affection with no distractions; rare and beautiful to see! Maybe the difference was that many of these men were truly Spirit-filled and were enjoying their kids in a whole new dimension. These precious bonds became even more evident once dads had presented their kids with bibles, and expressed their intention to be the dad God is calling them to be, and then said their final, tearful goodbye. This was the hardest part of the day! As one dad was walking back to the gate, his grown daughter (probably 17 or 18 years old) yelled out loudly with tears flowing, " I love you daddy, I love you!" As we tried to share some comfort with these kids and dads, this deep sadness of parting made us all the more determined to pray for these families. Another surprise which made this day unique was when Anthony, one of the many inmates who had responded to Pastor Mike Broyles' message just days before the riot, told us about what happened the day of the riot. When the violence and mayhem broke out, the Christian inmates in his area immediately jumped up, joined hands and prayed. Anthony said, "I don't even remember thinking, we should do something." He just remembered being linked hand in hand with his brothers, praying for God to bring peace to the situation. What a testimony these young believers were. What an example of God's glory and His redemption power was experienced by all of us yesterday! To God be all the glory!
Received Thursday 12/9/09
Laurie and Paul Easley
Paul and I had such an amazing time at the RHC in October. A few days before the
event we received a call that Paul needed to be a driver to pick up a 13 year
old child in Lancaster and that I needed to come along. We had previously been
given our assignments and we were not serving together. This change made it
possible for us to serve together. We didn't know anything about the child we were picking up even
whether they were a boy or girl. It was totally out of my conform zone. BUT
our God supplied the peace and comfort for me. He allowed Paul to be there to
make the long car trip comfortable and to engage our 13 year old in
conversation. Our unknown child turned out to be quite the polite and well
mannered young man. He was going to visit with his uncle. He was fortunate that
he is able to visit his uncle almost every weekend. Our inmate was also very
nice and felt blessed to be a part of the Merit Program. He is supposed to be an
intern with the television/movie training program that Gary and Cindy Hall
provide. He even told us that his attorney wanted to get him an early release
and that he requested she not do that because he wanted to finish the Merit Program. He looks forward to bible study and is also longing to be a part of the
Alumni Group that meets at GBC. We were very touched by the love
the inmates had for their children and how appreciative they were of all that
was provided for them that day. God answered all our prayers above and beyond
what we had asked for. We are looking forward to serving again next year.
Received Thursday 10/28/09
Rochelle was with the guardians while her older children were visiting their uncle (her brother) at the jail. Her young life has been hard, but with evidence of God's grace. One of her 3 year old twins is named Emmanuel...I was able to share with her that he is her constant reminder that "God is with us" . She hadn't known the meaning of the name.
Received Thursday 10/18/09
What blessings I received at the Returning Hearts event of 9/25/09! I
decided to be a bus greater at the jail, as well as a table leader this year.
That started a wonderful day seeing the woman with the kids that would be going
into the jail, getting to encourage the kids that looked scared and telling them
they were going to have a wonderful time and how exciting it would be once they
were inside. Many faces lit up as they understood it might not be as scary as
they thought. Many of the ladies already knew there were activities at the
church and were planning on going on the bus. While I was waiting for the ladies
to go through security I was able to talk to a young man there while he waited
for his girlfriend to come out. We had a short conversation about God and how
God is everywhere and can be with him all the time. No decision was made, but I
make a friend. At the church the ladies enjoyed themselves and were touched to
see the loving care given to them for no apparent reason. One woman at my table
said she did not understand why all the women did not come to this wonderful
event. Of the 2 ladies at my table they both already knew the Lord, but one said
she needed to rededicate her life. I pray for her now as I am typing as she has
a heavy load with 4 children, ages 5 to 17. When the time came for the women to
go back to the jail, I was not ready to let them go yet, so I stowed away on the
bus and went back to the jail with them. This was under the guise of helping
them carry those heavy grocery bags. I helped many get them to their cars. But I
must say the best time of the day for me, was spending that time at the jail
waiting for the children to come out. It was a time I got to share with 2 new
believers how to use the Bible, a “Bible 101” class. I explained that the bible
is make up of many books, and when they see John 5:24 it means the book of John,
Chapter 5 and verse 24. I showed them the table of contents in the bible, and
how to find things. One lady said she did not understand it when she reads, so I
encouraged her to continue through the parts she does not understand, not to
stop, and I know God will help her to understand His Word. She mentioned that
her husband (in jail) had told her to read the Psalms. So I showed that to her,
where to find it and explained how King David loved God so much and the love of
God flowed from him into songs which we now have the words. I explained how much
God loves us and He has written His word for us to be able to get to know Him;
that the relationship with God is what He wants. As I looked around I saw other
ladies listening, so I pray for them as well as they use the bibles given, and
if they don’t know God yet, they will meet Him face to face in His word. Thank
you so much for this wonderful “mini mission trip” and the opportunity to be
reminded of God’s forgiveness of us no matter what condition we are in. Also
that God can change our (my) judgmental hearts as we allow God’s love to flow
through us to the women He brought there Saturday. Still floating from the
“Jesus high” from this event.
Received Thursday 10/8/09
On the morning of the Returning Hearts event, I had last minute errands before 'going to jail'....I was wearing the RHC T-shirt and hurridly checking out at Wall-Mart. The checker stopped me and commented on my shirt..."Why that's a ministry shirt!"...."Oh that's the church that prays!, she said after noticing the GBC logo. We chatted and she wrote the names of 3 people to pray for on my register receipt, and I promised that I and our church would pray as she requested. Wow....that's a good reputation we at GBC are getting! Thata was only the beginning of what God was to do on that day!