Monday, November 12, 2012

Two Faithful Sams and a Bunch of Felons

It's easy to think the things we do every day make no difference. Rarely do we get to see more than the shallow footprints of where we have been.  It's other people, heroes of the faith, who see miraculous things, not normal folk like us.  But recently, I've been thinking a lot about how the "heroes of the faith" often didn't do one magnificent thing.  They walked faithfully and each day their footprints sunk deeper into the sand with the weight of their faith.  Each year, people followed their example and, pretty soon, the single set of footprints became the imprint of a movement...all because they were faithful and kept walking where God led.

Since we have started serving with TUMI this idea has been on my mind.  Much of what we do is missional in a theoretical sense.  We create resources and structures to facilitate the training of urban leaders for church planting movements, but this doesn't mean that we don't see first-hand God moving in amazing ways.  Recently, I was struck by the story of two men, who just by being faithful, have impacted the Kingdom in big ways...and TUMI has had the honor to participate.

Last week Warden Sam Cline came to visit TUMI and speak to World Impact staff about the prison in Hutchinson, Kansas.  It is truly amazing what God is doing there.  Through the simple, Christ-like belief that prisoners deserve dignity Warden Cline is changing prison culture.  The U.S. recidivism rate is over 60%, but because Warden Cline works to provide enrichment programs for his inmates, partners with godly business-owners to provide work for them, and takes every opportunity for Christ to be made known, the recidivism rate at Hutchinson is just over 30%.  Now, wardens all over the country are looking to Sam Cline, as a leader in prison reform.  All because he was faithful to the godly principle that every life is sacred to Christ...even the felon's.

Warden Cline is offering up an entire section of the prison to be used for the new TUMI satellite that will launch soon behind their bars.  Square footage is hard to come by in a prison, but Warden Cline believes strongly that God will change men's hearts and believes in TUMI's vision to train up indigenous leaders for Christ's church.

Warden Sam Cline believes in the vision of TUMI because another Sam was faithful even in less than ideal circumstances in his own life.  Due to a tragic, accidental event that led to the death of his wife, Sam found himself in Ellsworth prison (where Sam Cline was then warden).  Possessing a Master's degree from seminary and a Ph.D. in Agriculture, and a faithful Christian heart, Sam quickly began to use his academic skills and leadership to launch the first TUMI satellite in prison.  His leadership at The Advanced Studies Institute of the Inner Freedom Initiative of Prison Fellowship (in Ellsworth) served as the impetus for Prison Fellowship to begin their partnership with World Impact, through TUMI, and convinced Warden Cline of the importance of the training.

After his release Sam served as a mentor at our TUMI National Hope School of Ministry, and eventually took all his experience back to his home in Jos, Nigeria where he will partner with churches there to supply affordable Christian leadership education.  Sam's faithful footprints are sinking deep and drawing others to the pursuit of Christ, but it all started in prison.

Now, as a result of the partnership with Prison Fellowship, 423 prisoners are being trained to be pastors and Christian leaders, with an exponential growth poised on the horizon.  And, because of Warden Cline's faithfulness, other prisons are looking to walk in step with a man who follows Jesus.

The potential in the prisons leaves me in awe every time I think about it.  Wouldn't it be just like our God if He used a bunch of felons as the birth place of a revival in our country?  Isn't it just like our God to take leaders from gangs and the drug trade out of the temptations of the city, use the secular government to feed and house them, and use the Body of Christ to train them to one day be released back into the communities they had a hand in damaging and transform them for Christ?  Quite a seminary our God has set up for these men and women.

It is completely within the grace of our God to use felons, truly the "least of these" in societies eyes, and two ordinary but faithful Sams to bring spiritual revival to our land.  Let us pray for that, and let us pray that God make us faithful in our own lives as we lead others to walk in step with our Savior. one faithful step at a time.

In the words of Mother Teresa, “We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”  And that is all our Savior asks of us.

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