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God at Work in All Circumstances - Prison Fellowship

Officer Dan and Jonathan - Part 1

Video from Prison Fellowship

"When Jonathan first arrived at North Dakota State Penitentiary in handcuffs, joining a biblically based life-transformation program was the last thing on his mind. Growing up in a strict household, he felt “forced” to be a Christian and attended church often as a kid. Since both of his parents had a history of addiction, and his dad had served time in prison, Jonathan supposes the structure was his dad’s way of trying to keep his son on the right path. In his early 20s, Jonathan was staring down a 20-year prison sentence for a violent crime. He had no hope or desire to change. Continual poor behavior led to many disciplinary write-ups and stints in restrictive housing. Before long, he had a staff assault on his record. By the time he heard about the Prison Fellowship Academy®, Jonathan no longer considered himself a Christian. The program’s biblical basis didn’t draw him in, but he was looking for a chance to make changes and decided to apply for the program anyway. Located in prisons nationwide—and open to people of any faith or no faith—the Academy is a restorative community that helps replace participants’ criminal thinking and behaviors with renewed purpose and life principles. The Academy’s targeted curriculum and compassionate coaches guide participants to become change agents as they embrace the Values of Good Citizenship. “I was shocked they took my application,” Jonathan says, admitting to his bad reputation. “I thought, ‘They’re not going to let me in.’ But the worst they could tell me was no.” SURPRISED BY HOPE Then to Jonathan’s surprise, he was accepted into the program. When he enrolled, he discovered the Academy was more than he bargained for. He found a group of men who lived in peaceful community and desired to build one another up. Prison Fellowship® staff members David and Eddie coached them through curriculum dealing with topics like anger management, healthy relationships, and life skills. This training wasn't just transforming his mind. It was changing his heart. One morning, Jonathan went to his mentor in tears. "I just want change," Jonathan told David. "I'm just tired of this. I'm tired of struggling." The trust they had built with one another allowed Jonathan to open up. David helped Jonathan process his questions about faith and God, assuring Jonathan that the God of the Bible had a plan for him. It was no accident that Jonathan ended up in the Academy. With caring mentors walking alongside him, Jonathan developed a longing to change. Soon he realized he was powerless to transform on his own. “But with God and Christ, I can do all things,” Jonathan says. “It’s their power and their strength." from video introduction

Officer Dan and Jonathan - Part 2

Video from Prison Fellowship

"Over time, Jonathan’s inward transformation started becoming apparent to those around him, including people like Officer Dan, a lieutenant with more than 15 years’ experience in corrections. Officer Dan remembers the day Jonathan showed up at the prison in a waist chain and leg irons, on his way to restrictive housing. Back then, Officer Dan knew Jonathan’s reputation for violence; Jonathan saw the officer as just another “prison guard” who wanted to discipline him. Later, when Jonathan joined the Academy, Officer Dan began to notice a shift in Jonathan’s character. He saw what the program offered participants who desired to do the work. “They gain confidence in themselves, to act and think in different ways, in good ways,” says Officer Dan. “Even the ones that struggle for a while—people can change, if they want to. And Prison Fellowship definitely gives them the tools. We see the changes in them because of it.” Before, Officer Dan and Jonathan’s interactions stemmed from trouble. But in time, they started having meaningful conversations and building rapport. One day, Jonathan was accused of something he didn’t do, and Officer Dan went to bat for him. He took Jonathan’s word for it—a level of trust Jonathan could hardly believe. “At that point, I knew that this guy wasn’t out to get us,” says Jonathan. “This guy is for what’s right and what’s fair.” from video introduction


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