God sets the solitary in families; he leads out the prisoners with singing. Psalm 68:6
Tom has been in prison consistently for more than 25 years. As a young man he always felt like an ‘outsider’ in his family. Unable to connect with people, he had a series of short lived relationships, and fathered a number of children. But he was never able to stay the course, and his personal disappointments often led to him numbing the pain with drugs or alcohol, and expressing his frustration at life with violence. His family had given up hope in him, prison had found him an uncooperative and suspicious character, and he had resigned himself to a life of loneliness. Then God touched his sister’s life.
After attending an Alpha course, she came to a living faith in Christ, and found a new compassion and concern for her brother. She had written to him sporadically while he was in prison, but now she determined to engage once more with his needs. She approached ‘Connect to Community’ for help. We visited Tom in prison over a number of months, and a trust began to develop between us. We found a flat owner willing to take a risk on him, a church willing to gather round and support him, and with a support package in place persuaded a local social work team to take on his case which enabled him to move across the country and relocate near his Dad and his sister. Tom worked hard in his closing weeks in prison so that he came out of prison drug-free. The church worked hard to welcome him into their community with meals, practical support and friendship. Social Work engaged in a positive partnership focused on Tom’s needs. One by one his children began to see a difference in him. One by one they brought along their own children to meet him. The reintegration into his family was complete on Father’s Day this year when Tom took a selfie surrounded by his grandchildren.
Now he cycles to visit his housebound Dad every day, he sees grandchildren on a weekly basis, and has been helping his son with his decorating business. God’s love can radically change families.
Lord, when our hope is extinguished, renew us by the strength of your promises, to seek out the lonely and lost, and love them back into life. Amen