Beyond the Bars Blog

Lenten Inspiration Through Volunteerism

As we continue through Great & Holy Lent, we wanted to provide you with some inspirational updates from our ministry.

We would like to welcome our newest volunteer, Jim Demetrios, to the OCPM!

Jim has started corresponding with those in jails and prisons across the United States. The challenge of writing to prisoners extends beyond providing proper guidance to those asking for help. Stringent rules, which vary by facility, force our correspondents to constantly adapt in order to reply with a compliant letter.

Here is a note Jim shared with us about his first letter:

I wanted to let you, my mentors on this journey, know that I was very happy and at the same time very moved to have gotten my first response back this morning from our prisoner Mark. Father texted me with the good news first thing this morning and I rushed over to church to pick up the letter from Mark.

It is a full two-page handwritten letter very well written and thought out. Positive in many ways and searching for some broader guidance and direction in his Orthodox Faith. I hope I can assist him in this regard. I can see from his inflection and posture that he genuinely wants to continue this dialogue that we have now begun. Also, the date he mailed his letter, April 1, is also indicative of little or no delay in pursuing this long arm Faith discussion.

I am going to respond very soon and will also henceforth hand write my letters to him as he has thereby keeping in some synchronized method of communication.

More to follow as I continue with this much needed ministry.

God Bless you for all you do in His name.

In Christ

Jim Demetrios

Executive Director of the OCPM, Fr. Stephen Powley, recently participated in a Lenten Retreat at Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church in Southampton, NY from March 28 – 31. Father provided a detailed report of the event and these are some select sections from that report.

“Before heading for NY I decided to revamp my presentations. I often do that for my own good, but also trying to find better ways to communicate with the attendees. This retreat will go down in my own mind as one of the best, ever. It seemed like the people were so very tuned in to everything being presented. After each presentation, the Q&A sessions were outstanding. The questions led to more stories and details that added greatly to the overall presentation.”

“I spoke with one man who shared some of his own story with me. He actually got tears in his eyes as we talked. He left me and walked directly to our table. He spoke with Paul and then pulled out a $100 bill and put it in an envelope. The next day following the presentation, he again spoke with me with tears; went to see Paul; and again pulled out another $100 bill for OCPM. In my heart and mind, that is how money should be donated…from the heart.”

“Fr. Alexander Karloutsos is the priest responsible for this parish and the beautiful church building that was built there.”

While we work all year to reach those in need of Christ and the Orthodox faith who are in the penitentiary system, the holy season of Lent can be especially trying. The clergy and lay volunteers, though, step up to the demand. We will continue to support them in their efforts by providing the materials and training needed to bring Christ to those souls who need Him. We ask, humbly, that you support the OCPM with a donation this Lent so we can continue to support those who visit Him in prison!

In Christ,

The OCPM Team

Beyond the Bars Blog

OCPM Members Teach Inmates Victory Through Forgiveness

In Matthew 5:44-45, Jesus gave us a radical command “love your enemies; bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” But you might say, “IT ISN’T POSSIBLE TO LOVE MY ENEMIES AND TO DO GOOD TO THEM!” Not true!

It was possible for David, who wept for his enemies Saul and Absalom, who had perished. 2 Kings 1 and 2 Samuel 18. Mourning over the destruction of enemies is a sign of love for enemies.

It was possible for Archdeacon Stephen, who prayed for his enemies “Lord do not hold this sin against them” as they stoned him to death (Acts 7:60).

It was possible for Joseph to forgive his brothers who sold him into slavery and lied to their
Father telling him that Joseph had been killed by an animal. (Genesis 37-50)

It was possible for Jesus who asked his Father to forgive his enemies who put him to death for they knew not what they were doing.

In my book, “The Tools of Spiritual Warfare,” I write that “Unforgiveness is a harbinger of demons. It creates a stronghold where demons can dwell and from which they can hold us captive. When we refuse to forgive – or refuse at least to ask God to help us forgive – we are saying that we know more than God, we have more right to be offended than God, and that we are more important than God. God has forgiven everyone, even those who crucified Jesus. Jesus’ last words were ‘Father, forgive them’ (Luke 23:34). If God can forgive everyone, it is really quite a self-important and proud thought that I do not have to forgive too. It is this pride of unforgiveness that gives the demons a foothold in our hearts. I am not saying that forgiveness is easy or that God ignores the evil that others have done to us, I am saying that in order to pray, we must at least be willing to ask God for the grace to forgive. We must at least be willing to turn over the judgment of the other to God: ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord’ (Heb 10:30).”

Through the work of OCPM’s jail and prison ministry workers, the inmates they encounter are learning how to forgive which allows them to become overcomers instead of victims. Your monetary donations help fund the work of OCPM in reducing the rate of recidivism.

-Joy Corey