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‘Empowered witnesses: lessons from Jesus’ ascension’ – Hugh Greathead

A devotion from Acts 1:1-11

In this passage, we encounter a pivotal moment that shapes the trajectory of the early Church, all the way through to today! Jesus’ ascension into heaven is a profound event that holds valuable lessons, especially for those engaged in prison ministry. Indeed, through Prison Fellowship ministries across the globe, more than 60,000 Volunteers are serving in and around prisons!

Reflecting on Acts 1:1-11, we witness the disciples grappling with the departure of their beloved teacher. Jesus, having completed His earthly ministry, prepares to return to the Father. However, before He leaves, He emphasises the role of the Holy Spirit in empowering them for the mission ahead.

In the context of prison ministry, where darkness often looms large and hope seems distant, we can be assured that Jesus offers His disciples—and us— support from the Holy Spirit. We too can rest assured that God equips us with everything we need to fulfil His purposes, even in the most challenging environments. It is especially encouraging to know we are part of an ongoing witness to God’s faithfulness. For over 40 years, He has been growing the Prison Fellowship International movement to have a presence in 123 countries and bringing good news to over 900,000 people in prison each year!

Jesus’ command to the disciples—to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth—resonates deeply with us as well. We are called to bear witness to the transformative power of Christ’s love and redemption, not only within the confines of prison walls but also in every corner of society. Our mission transcends physical boundaries, reaching into the depths of brokenness and despair with the hope of Christ’s resurrection. We are driven to press forward towards bringing the transforming love of Jesus to ever more of the 12 million people in prison globally!

Moreover, the scene of Jesus’ ascension serves as a poignant reminder of our ultimate hope as believers. Just as the disciples gazed upward as Jesus disappeared into the heavens, we too eagerly await His triumphant return. In the midst of the challenges we encounter in prison ministry, we find hope in the promise of Jesus’ second coming—a promise that assures us of His sovereignty over all creation and His final victory over sin and death.

As we meditate on the account of Jesus’ ascension, let us be emboldened by the reality of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. Let us embrace our calling as empowered witnesses, sharing the love and grace of Christ with those who are in prison, knowing that our labour in the Lord is never in vain.

Hugh Greathead is the Global Field Director and Senior Regional Director of Prison Fellowship International Europe and Asia. 

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“I can honestly say that I never had as much satisfaction when I worked as I do now as a volunteer.” — Arthur, Chaplaincy Support volunteer

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