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In this week’s second reading we are reminded that St. Paul spent much of his time as a prisoner:

“I, Paul, an old man,and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus,urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus,whose father I have become in my imprisonment…”

My journey as an itinerant preacher was kicked into high gear when I met my good friend, Harry Nigh, the Community Chaplain for Corrections Canada. He asked me to join him in his ministry to ex-convicts and it has been an amazing ride. Together, with a number of people, we started a small “For Impact” group called The Friends of Dismas.

Last Friday, the Toronto Star, did a story on Harry and Dismas and I think the writer was right on as he starts the article this way:

The short, compact, turbo-charged man with a beaming face directing operations was Reverend Harry Nigh, a former Mennonite minister in Hamilton and current Community Chaplain for the Correctional Services of Canada who is one of the founders of the Dismas Fellowship, a bi-monthly meeting designed to provide assistance and community to individuals who have recently been released from prison.

Click here to take a moment and read the entire story.

Please note the  people interviewed as they talk about their experiences in volunteering to be a friend to a person attempting to rebuild their life after spending time in prison.Here is one observation from my young friend, university student Karina, who has been a volunteering at Dismas for the past four years. She captures the spirit of the Dismas Fellowship in the following quote:

I haven’t experienced this kind of community before,” Karina told me, “and it has opened up new perspectives for me. I can’t emphasize enough the amount of support people feel at Dismas—people really care about people here. It’s not just helping people get clothes and places to live and things like that, it’s also about celebrating birthdays and the anniversaries of when they got out of prison.”

The challenge to all followers of Christ is, as it has always been, and is captured completely in Mathew 25– When we will be asked by Jesus- “When I was … in prison you visited me.”

Remember we are all called to make a difference!!

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