Today’s devotional, (February 20, 2020), in the publication, Our Daily Bread, brings out an important point. It’s a point that I call, Reaching Back. In this devotional the author, James Banks, tells of a youth pastor in a city where he, the youth pastor, was once an addict hooked on heroin. It’s the story of a life transformed by the wonderful working power of the Holy Spirit. And, as is so often the case, this youth pastor is now devoting his life to “reaching back” to those who are where he once was. It seems that no life is more effective in helping the hurting than one who has walked a mile in their shoes. No one can relate to the pain like one who has felt it. No one can minister to the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness like one who has been there. And no one can encourage one who has no hope to reach out once again, but this time to reach for the One who is Hope.
May I tell you that this is the story of my life – and the story of New Leaf Inmate Ministries. A man named Jesse Basnight came into a jail where I was in 1985 and told me that I hadn’t been too bad to be forgiven. In accepting the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, that Jesse Basnight introduced me to, completely change my life. Three years later, when I was released from prison, I started my first jail ministry, and named it, “Reaching Back.” Today, 32 years later the ministry is no longer just me. And the name has changed to New Leaf Inmate Ministries. And while the goal is still the same, it too has changed a little. At least for me as an individual it has. I’m 80 years old now and someone recently pointed out that I’m now in the last trimester of my life. Yes, the goal is still to reach the lost with the message of forgiveness and restoration that can only come by faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ. What’s changed for me is a hope that through me, through my testimony and meager efforts, God will raise up someone to follow in my footsteps. Since August of 1985 I have been trying to emulate Jesse Basnight. I think of him often. On a Saturday morning in sunny southern Florida he could have been out golfing, or fishing, or just laying on the beach soaking up the sun. But he wasn’t. He was at the jail “reaching back.”
One reason why today’s Our Daily Bread devotional so captured me, is because I have an inmate in my Tuesday night Bible class at the local jail now who wants to be a youth pastor. Praise God! And I have others who are saying that when they have finished their sentences they want to come out and join New Leaf Inmate Ministries so that they too may “reach back.” So that’s something that’s always in the back of my mind now. Now I’m no longer just teaching people the Bible and encouraging their new life in Christ, I’m encouraging them to reach back.
And how about you, the one who has taken his or her time to read all the way through this lengthy blog? Are you reaching back. Some hurting soul needs your knowing touch. Allow God to use you.