Like Father, Like Son

  Do you remember the little Michigan boy who shot and killed his first-grade classmate? The story horrified even shell-shocked Americans. But the story stuck in my heart for a special reason. The child who shot little Kayla Roland is the child of a prison inmate. Those of us in prison ministry could have predicted that this boy would one day embark on a life of crime: The experts tell us that prisoners' children are six times more likely than other kids to become criminals themselves. But if you think there's little or nothing you can do about it, let me tell you about another prisoner's child. Jim was one of the toughest inmates in Colorado's Limon prison. He was a hard, tough man, serving three life sentences with no chance of parole. He was constantly being reprimanded and thrown into solitary confinement, and many of his fellow inmates were afraid of him. Back at home, Jim's eleven-year-old son John was proving the truth of the saying, "Like father, like son." John kept getting into trouble both at home and at school. He was heading down the same path his father had taken. But then a Prison Fellowship Angel Tree coordinator named Howard Waller met with John's father at Limon prison. He asked Jim if he would like for his son to attend summer camp through Angel Tree. But Jim wanted nothing to do with anything Christian, and he certainly didn't want to pay for a Christian summer camp. Howard assured Jim there was no cost for the camp; churches and Prison Fellowship supporters were taking care of it. So, reluctantly, Jim agreed. At camp, John experienced a world he had never seen before -- a world of Christian love and compassion. These counselors really cared about him, and he didn't need to get into trouble to get noticed. The counselors witnessed to him every day, sharing the peace and joy of knowing God. And before the week was over, John had accepted Jesus Christ. Well, that was just the beginning. John wrote to his father, telling him about his new faith. But Jim wasn't pleased, and he let Howard Waller know about it. "Now you've done it," Jim said. "My son became a Christian at camp." Howard tried to tell Jim about the salvation John had found, but Jim wanted no part of it. But little John didn't give up on his dad. He kept writing to him, telling him about Jesus Christ. Outwardly, Jim ignored his son's gentle encouragement. But inside, God was at work in Jim's heart. That Christmas, John visited his dad in prison. Once again, the boy told his father about his faith in Jesus. And finally, during that visit with his son, Jim broke down and prayed to receive Christ. You know, there are millions of kids like John today. And their only hope for breaking free of the generational cycle of crime is through the intervention of Christian mentors and volunteers. I hope you'll help send kids like John to camp this summer. Through Angel Tree Camping, you can help to pull at-risk kids -- and even their parents -- out from behind enemy lines, and into new life in Christ.


Chuck Colson


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