Before becoming a pastor in Chicago, I spent much of my life connected to the criminal justice system. Along the way, I accepted responsibility for my actions and earned my GED in prison—important, purposeful steps that the parole board took into account. I left prison a changed man by the grace of God and the redeeming power of Jesus. Released on parole, I found gainful employment, a place to live, and a church community that helped me stay on the right path.
Living proof of the power of a second chance
I feel like what happened to me was a process of restoration and redemption, albeit flawed and broken along the way. And it wasn’t simply the parole board; it was a collective effort of the church, of my employers, of my family and community… of people around me providing opportunities for me and me taking advantage of them by God's grace.
Now, I am a husband, father, a college graduate working on a doctorate in Global Missions, and the Lead Pastor of Chicago West Bible Church, which I help to plant with other faithful Christ followers in 2016.
Celebrating second chances
Every April, our church hosts a Second Chance Sunday, holding a special service to raise awareness about the stigma and barriers that people with a criminal record face. The service inspires our church body to create a place of welcome and belonging. This effort is part of Second Chance® Month, a nationwide campaign led by Prison Fellowship® to unlock brighter futures for approximately 70 million Americans with a criminal record.
And the annual observance of Second Chance Month has made a lasting impact.
Second Chance Sundays have created a culture in which everyone feels free to truly embrace one another in Christ, as He designed us to be.
Host your own Second Chance Sunday
As believers, we know the ultimate second chance comes through Christ’s sacrifice. And Christ tells us in Matthew 25 (NIV), “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” We have an unparalleled capacity to welcome those impacted by incarceration and to advocate for reforms that help restore lives.
If you share a passion for breaking down barriers and believe in second chances, we invite you and your church to download the complimentary Second Chance Sunday Toolkit today. It’s easy to get started – and Prison Fellowship has the tools to help you make a difference.