Pain is a blessing, not a curse: The Salvation Army Prison Ministry

Mar 22, 2023 | by Brad Rowland

Pain is a blessing, not a curse: The Salvation Army Prison Ministry

By: Major Kwang Hee Chang

When transporting cod by train from the northeast United States, it doesn't taste fresh even if transported frozen. So, the cod was placed in a water tank and transported live. It still didn't taste fresh. Then someone had the excellent idea to add a few catfish in the tank, natural enemies to cod. Now the cod were busy being chased by the catfish during the long transportation hours. This experiment was successful, and the taste of cod has not changed since. It might be a pain for codfish to be transported with catfish, but it helps their condition and retains their flavor.

Pain is a blessing not a curse.

Poverty might be a curse to some people, but Lincoln became great because of his poverty. Some would lament the physical disability caused by polio, but it was a blessing to Franklin Roosevelt. A hero in classical music and one of the most admired composers, Beethoven, wrote many symphonies even after he became deaf in his later years. Is skin color a hindrance? There are countless people who became great figures, leaving a light in the world in spite of discrimination, like Booker T. Washington, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King and many others.

Pain is a blessing not a curse.

Often, we do not think about inmates or jail, because our intention is not to commit wrong. Many of us can only picture prison by the images shown on TV dramas or movies. I have visited some correctional facilities. They are very isolated. Anyone imprisoned there would be anxious if imprisoned there. We must remember that inmates experience it the same way we would. Locked up away from the world without much to do in an isolated cell makes people more dull than smart. However, it is a blessing when inmates find something to do and make efforts toward their goal. We hope they find the purpose of their life through the Word of God during their incarceration. The Salvation Army Corrections and Institutional Services Department are here to support them.

Let me share one of our student inmate's testimonies, who has been working through one of our Bible Correspondence Courses.

“My name is H. Zhu, I'm 39 and came to the US for a scholarship to do my Ph.D. in economics at Virginia Tech. My first interaction with The Salvation Army was back in 2008 when I first saw the Red Kettle Drive in front of a Kroger store during the Christmas holiday. I put some change in the red buckets but I didn't know anything else back then. Somehow life became unpredictable. I was arrested in 2009 for murder and am now serving a life sentence. Until my arrest, I was an atheist, but many Christians wrote and visited me in jail. I was deeply influenced by how they showed unconditional love and support. I was deeply moved and even became a good friends with them. I felt strongly that such a great love couldn't be bad. I made a decision to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior in the same year. And my life has changed ever since because now I have hope and forgiveness from Jesus and He is always there by my side, even during the darkest hours in my life. I saw The Salvation Army's Bible Study Courses on its calendar card from the prison chaplain. I completed the last course in the advanced series last month, so now I've finished all your Bible Study Courses (Reflective, Basic and Advanced series). It took me three years, but I've learned so much. They really helped me grow spiritually a lot during the COVID pandemic. Although I'm in prison Jesus has promised me a bright future with Him and for His cause; I believe God has a purpose for me, and I can be part of His plan to better the world by obeying Him and answering His calling. I have tremendous respect for The Salvation Army and their charity work."

Pain is a blessing not a curse.

One additional testimony from A. Spencer:

"I grew up in a very religious Christian family on a farm in a small town. I was the oldest among my brothers and sisters. Responsibilities of taking care of my younger siblings, farm and house chores came early in my life while my parents worked at their jobs. Our family had weekly family devotion and attended various programs at church on Sunday as I grew up. I went to Taiwan to teach the gospel to Chinese people for two years after schooling. I was already fluent in Mandarin by the time I came back home and was offered an airline job because of my fluency in Mandarin. I married and had children, made an easy life in big city. The evils of big city got a hold of me—women, drugs and alcohol. I lost all—desires, wealth, power and even my loved wife and children. That brought me a conviction and sentence for 30 years. Blaming everyone but myself, hatred soon turned into despair, despair into loneliness, loneliness into crying out for help in total embarrassment and humility. I cried for forgiveness of the mess I made on my life. My tears turned to tears of joy, peace, and contentment because I knew our Savior Jesus and His atonement gave me another chance forward in His love and grace!"

Pain is a blessing not a curse. Even Paul and Silas were arrested and imprisoned in biblical times. Jesus Christ taught His disciples to minister those in need including those who are imprisoned. In Matthew 25:40, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me." In our correspondence, we find many testimonies about how life changed and our Bible Correspondence Program helped them achieve real inner freedom and joy over the years. The Salvation Army Prison Ministry's purpose is to reach out to inmates who need the love of Jesus Christ through offering a Bible and Bible study materials. It is our hope that someone finds new life in Christ while spending their time in jail. If life in prison is torment, but it may be a perfect time for those who need God.

Pain is a blessing not a curse.

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