Father to the Fatherless

Jun 18, 2017

By Rick Admiraal, pastor of New Life Prison Community, a prison congregation in Newton, Iowa. 

It's the time of year in which we celebrate our parents.  We've already celebrated Mothers Day and now it's time for Fathers Day.  God's Word gives us these instructions within the ten commandments: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)  So shouldn't we follow these directives each and every day of the year?  Nevertheless we've been given these holidays as an annual reminder to hold our parents in high regard, showing them love and appreciation. 

One thing we do is send greeting cards to our mothers and fathers.  At the prison in Newton, Iowa we hold a monthly greeting card distribution.  (They pay only for the postage expense)  In May we gave away greeting cards for Mothers Day.  In June we gave away greeting cards again - this time for Fathers Day.  Oftentimes Fathers Day is not quite as popular in prison.  The fact of the matter is that many of the men had a less than stellar experience with dad.  Perhaps it would be more appropriate to have a Day for Dysfunctional Dads.

In the six years that I've been the pastor of New Life Prison Community, I've had numerous conversations with men in the prison chapel.  Some of them have told me stories of dads that did a great deal of damage.  One man informed me that his first experience with drugs was with his father who shared a joint with him when he was just 14 years old. 

Another man spoke about verbal abuse that had occurred decades ago when his dad called him worthless and said that he would never amount to anything.  To be honest those words touched a nerve and brought back the emotional pain.  One day I spoke to a man who had served multiple prison sentences for domestic violence.  When I told him that my dad taught me never to hit a girl, he said that his dad's behavior gave him a poor example.  His dad would go out and get drunk then come home and beat his wife while his son watched fearfully from his bedroom.  Do as I say, not as I do. 

In addition, I can think of at least three fathers who did time at the prison alongside their sons.  It happens more often that what you would think.

So where does God fit into all of this?  The Psalms say this about our God: “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, he leads out the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun–scorched land.” (Psalm 68:5-6) 

Father God is a good father even when our fathers are not so good.  The Lord God is father to the fatherless, the widow, the lonely and those in prison.  He leads out prisoners in order to give them freedom not only physically but also spiritually.  The source of all good, God sent his son Jesus Christ to save all who are imprisoned by sin.  God also sends the Holy Spirit to transform our character to become more like Jesus Christ.  In the Spirit, men experience transformation to become more loving, joyful, and peaceful.  In the Spirit, rough fathers develop gentleness and chaotic dads learn the godly discipline of self-control.  In this way the generational chain of violence within families is becoming broken in order to set the prisoner free. 

One organization that is making a big difference with the children of prisoners is Angel Tree, an important part of Prison Fellowship.  In the Christmas Season, Angel Tree gives presents to children on behalf of their incarcerated parent.  In the summer months, Angel Tree hosts summer camps which are free for kids who have a parent or step-parent in prison.  These summer camps are a ton of fun with activities such as swimming, hiking, fishing and crafts.  In addition, the Angel Tree camps are spiritually transformative for the boys and girls who attend.  This summer marks the 16th year that Lake View Camp has hosted Angel Tree Camps in Pella and Eldora, Iowa. 

Thank God for Angel Tree!  And thank God for the Holy Spirit who transforms the hearts of children and their parents!




Category: healing

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