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Sunday, 31 July 2011

Mark Stibbe on prisons

Father's House Trust newsletter excerpt
We’ve also been on the road a lot – travelling around the UK as well as into Europe for conferences and events. It is always a privilege to be a part of what the Father is doing in the world, and it is our on-going desire to see his presence bringing healing and restoration. This May I had to fly to the USA to speak at various churches. During that time I attended a conference simply to receive. Having been giving out a lot, I was very keen to encounter the Father’s love in a fresh way. I was mindful of the saying, ‘if your output exceeds your input, then your upkeep will be your downfall’. What was very interesting to me was this: that I really didn’t experience anything during the conference at all. Don’t get me wrong - the music was amazing and the preaching was outstanding - but at no point did I have my heart ‘seized by the power of a great affection’, to use Brennan Manning’s phrase. Then the worship leader announced that she and the choir were going to go to a local prison the next day to bless the prisoners. Something leapt within me and I just knew I was supposed to be there. So I asked her if I could come too. She said yes, adding that she wanted me to speak.

The next day I was driven to a juvenile detention centre just outside the city. As I walked through the entrance, I began to feel an overwhelming sense of compassion for the young people there. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that I spent most of the next three hours either in tears or on the edge of tears. Over 70 prisoners came voluntarily to the meeting where I shared about the running father from Luke 15.11. They listened very respectfully and at the end over 20 of them made a commitment to Jesus. After that we went round the room hugging those who wanted a hug and praying for them.

quote2So, I went to a conference to receive a fresh revelation of the Father’s love, but it wasn’t until the day after the conference that I received it – and it wasn’t within the walls of a church with Christians but in the confines of a prison with the lost. Truly our Father is the God of surprises! Why am I sharing this? It’s because at Father’s House Trust the Holy Spirit has laid upon our hearts the importance of bringing Abba’s love to prisoners. We all know the statistics – 85% of prisoners don’t know their dads. God has a special place in his heart for those in prison.

In the future we at FHT are going to seek to reach out to prisoners, and we are planning carefully exactly when and how we do that. I have a strong hunch that many of us who have experienced the Father’s love in receiving mode at conferences are going to have our hearts seized by the power of a great affection outside the church – as we minister to orphans, widows, the lonely and prisoners (Psalm 68.5-6). We are going to realize the truth that there is a much greater blessing to be found in giving than in receiving (Acts 20.35).

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