The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound …

—Isaiah 61:1 (English Standard Version)

There’s something very significant about bringing freedom to oppressed people, in the various forms that particular aspect of social justice takes. Think about it: The whole purpose of Jesus taking on human form and dying on a cross, spending three days in Hell, and then returning from the grave was to set prisoners free. There are a lot of things we can do as followers of God, but mission descriptions just don’t get any more Christlike than that.

That’s what I found intriguing about Eric Volz, when a mutual friend introduced us last year and suggested Citizen do a story on his group, the David House Agency.

“One of the things God has really been teaching me lately is how important prison is to his redemptive plan,” Volz told me a few months ago. “Three-quarters of the New Testament was written in prison. And what God is doing in prisons right now around the world is unprecedented. He’s turning the hearts of major, major drug traffickers and Mafia bosses and terrorists.

“And when that happens, they have access to the hearts of people most don’t have access to.”

That kind of firsthand experience and relatability is key to the work of two ministries that focus their efforts domestically: Lamb of God Recovery Centers and Prisoners of Christ, both based in Florida. They recently prevailed in a lawsuit and are now continuing their work with men just released from prison, bringing them practical skills and spiritual sustenance to build a better life on the outside.

Regardless of whether the focus is international or domestic, or if the work generates headlines or is humble and hidden, we applaud everyone who is called to this area. And for the rest of us? We can be involved, too—with our prayers, with our donations, or simply by sending a letter to a prisoner. A little encouragement can go a really, really long way, especially when you’re in a place that seems devoid of hope.

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.” Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me.”

—Matthew 25:34-40


Originally published in the May 2016 issue of Citizen magazine.