Sometimes I say things that get me into trouble. It’s usually by accident, but those who know me closely, will know that I also have a mischievous side. A little while ago, I was talking to some PF folk who were struggling to get on. Yes, it happens! And I said, “Of course, working with those in prison is actually the easy bit, it’s getting on with each other that’s the challenge.” My intention was not to devalue the demands of ministering in prison, but to point out how deeply challenging our relationships can be.
In our fortnightly online volunteer prayer gatherings, we are talking about PF’s values. Our values are Respect, Humility, Unity, Integrity, Hope, Compassion, Dignity and Prayerfulness. These are not just words chosen at random, they come from hundreds of conversations I had with our volunteers, as I drove around our prisons and prayer groups five years ago. As I heard testimonies about how God had called our volunteers to love those in prison, and as I saw God’s love in action in every conversation we had with each other and with those in prison, I started writing down what I saw. These eight words describe how PF people want to be as they serve those in prison. But, what is even more exciting, is that when we do strive for these things in God’s strength, then something of His glory shines through, and those words can become a reality. Not because of us, but because of Christ living in us.
The theme verse for our prayer gatherings where we are discussing our values is John 13 v 35. It says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” We have chosen it because it sits at the centre of all of our values. This is because our values are not randomly chosen, made up ideas. They are biblical foundation stones and are woven together through those words of Jesus from John 13.
PF’s mission is to show Christ’s love to prisoners. We do this when we show those in prison the respect that says that they too are an image of God – just like us.
In humility, we learn to live out and truly believe that others deserve exactly the same love and consideration that we do, no matter who they are or what they have done. The hope found in Christ of a transformed life, sits at the centre of all we say and do. Through true compassion, we desire a generous heart and, with God’s help, we move beyond empathy to action. PF’s values are not fancy words for our noticeboard or website. They are written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit and with His help, we can be changed little by little and so truly reflect the love of Christ to those we minister with and seek to humbly serve.
Peter Holloway is the Chief Executive of Prison Fellowship England and Wales.
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