Saturday, May 10, 2008

Thank You for Giving Us Back Our Son

A few years ago Nicola's 13 year old daughter was killed in a car accident by two teenage boys, acquaintances of her daughter's, who had stolen the car.

Nicola decided to put her faith into action while trying to deal with the pain of her loss --- by reaching out to the family of the boy who was the driver, and was facing serious criminal charges.

Nicola visited the mother of the driver numerous times. Over the simple act of coffee and conversation they became friends. They attended the family group conferences together, where Nicola and her husband pleaded with the justice system for the boys not to be sent to jail. Nicola knew about jail, and the effect it would probably have on the boy, because her brother has been in and out of prison all his adult life.

Later Nicola was contacted by the local prison and asked to visit the father of the boy. This man was a member of a notorious gang, but had asked specifically for Nicola to come see him. She put herself in God's hands and visited. The father told her how for a month he had been crying in his cell because of the love she had shown --- "thank you for giving us back our son". He knew the life his son would almost inevitably fall into if he had been sent to jail (he wasn't). It is now a couple of years since the father was released from prison, and he has been not gone back in. A remarkable turn around as he also has spent his adult life in and out of prison.

Nicola tells me she didn't initially feel love for the boy, or his mother, or the father - but felt compelled by her faith to reach out to them. She first acted on that compulsion, and then the feelings of love came.

I met Nicola at a training session for volunteer prison visitors. Nicola was doing her annual renewal, but for me it was my first.

I have no visions of grandeur as I set out on prison visitation ministry. I don't think I'll be saving the world - but how incredible would it be to impact someone's life like Nicola did? Simply by treating them with dignity. They need to accept the reality of their actions, and the consequences they face, but if we as a society do not reach out to them we will all be the poorer for it.

Matthew 24:35-36 (NLT): "For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me."

I have changed some elements of Nicola's story, including her name, to protect her privacy - but the essence of the story is as she told it to me.

This article has also been cross-posted on my personal blog at GavinKnight.com

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