“How would you like to take a trip to Zambia?” That one phone call from an old friend in the ministry changed my life. It was early 2016. My church was growing, and our involvement with The Fellowship had never been better. But I sensed in my spirit that God was about to shift something in our ministry. Soon, I was on a plane for 16 hours one way with Pastor Ken Harbaum, a dear friend and co-laborer in The Fellowship. Ken is our World Missions director and a man with many decades of investment in evangelism around the world. What we saw on the trip was alarming, and greatly moved us.
There are over 14 million children in the world whose parents are currently incarcerated. And while this is a tragedy in and of itself, nearly 1 million of those children also live in regions of extreme poverty. They are – in many ways – the neediest people on earth: lacking not just the basic necessities of life, but also missing the fundamental support of a mother and father. These children are often rejected by society, lacking access to the limited aid and welfare that is normally available. Many times, their own extended family will reject them out of shame on behalf of their imprisoned parents. If ever there was a “least of these” to care for, the children of prisoners in the developing world certainly qualify.
The trip to Zambia moved me greatly because I got to see the need first-hand. Often times these children can fall through the cracks of larger charity initiatives. In many ways, this need represents a pioneering opportunity to care for a people group that is far from natural help but close to the heart of God. The trip to Zambia also gave me great hope. There is progress being made by Christian ministries who have boots on the ground that are producing real, positive results. We saw authentic Christians who are living out the words of Jesus and caring for the “least of these” by providing food, medical help, and education. Our friends at Prison Fellowship International have begun organizing a network of assistance in several key countries where the needs are greatest and have asked us to help steward this mission into the future. That is why we have decided to embrace this need together as a fellowship of churches and ministers. We believe it is God’s mandate for us to fully avail ourselves of this opportunity, and see thousands of children get the care that they would otherwise never see. Our challenge as a fellowship is to see 10,000 children of prisoners receive hope through sponsorship in the next five years. As a Spirit-filled organization that is devoted to hearing the voice of the Lord, it is hard not to recognize the unique opportunity that lies before us. We have an opportunity to be on the cutting edge of bringing hope to the marginalized, and I know that our fellowship is up to the challenge. Please take a moment to read through some of the material on our new “Children of Prisoners Project” web page. You can learn more about the needs, explore details about how our support makes a difference, and hear testimonies from some of the people who have also seen first-hand how precious these children are to the heart of God. In Christ, Steve Holder