Do Something: Visiting the Imprisoned

Visiting the Imprisoned- Teaching the Corporal Works of Mercy to Teens

Last night our middle school students attending the EDGE program really impressed me.  Those of you involved in Life Teen/EDGE will understand. It was one of those nights when everything just came together and you really felt God working in their hearts.

Over the fall semester we’ve been learning about the Corporal Works of Mercy. If you aren’t familiar with them, they come from Matthew 25: 36-40
Naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me, Then the righteous will answer him and say, “Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink when did we see you a stranger and welcome you or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison and visit you? And the king will say to them in reply, Amen I say to you whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.
The point of this lesson is that it’s not enough to Know Christ and Love Him, He asks us to Serve Him through serving others in a physical way.

The YouCat (450) answers the question, “What are the ‘corporal works of mercy’” more directly for students:
  • To feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Clothe the naked
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Visit the sick and imprisoned
  • Bury the dead
In order to get these young minds to warm up, loosen up, be open to receiving and sharing the message, we started with some praise and worship, singing How Great is our God. Next I challenged them with Matthew West’s video, DO SOMETHING.   We opened the Proclaim (main talk) with a reading from the Gospel of John 8:3-11.

The EDGE lesson titled “Just Visiting” tackles the potentially overlooked mercy of “Visiting the Imprisoned.”  After a few minutes of discussion about convicted criminals who go into the prison system, we heard from Mr. Paul, an elementary CCE teacher who volunteered for about 10 years in a prison ministry. He spoke about his own call to serve in the prison, his initial feelings, thoughts, and fears regarding the inmates. He spoke about the hierarchy between prisoners, the fact that many of them had never known the gift of love, the change in them he witnessed by bringing them the message of God’s love and Christ.  He spoke of the positive message and community that developed between the men who participated in the ministry, both inside and outside the prison.

Paul held us in rapt attention; the kids fell silent; the adults brushed away tears. 

At one point he told about a man on the inside who said God’s message made him feel free.  Free, despite being locked in a maximum security prison. Paul told us about his own personal conversion in how he considered what “those people” truly deserved.

Visiting the imprisoned is an act of compassion and forgiveness that reminds us not to cast stones at the sinner, but bring them the message of God’s love and pray for their conversion and redemption. They’ve already been judged by men.  Both Paul and the lesson plan references St. Dismas. While you may not know the name, you’ll recognize his story. In all four Gospels it is recorded that Jesus was not crucified alone; two criminals were also punished on either side of him.  

While one taunted him, “Are you not the Messiah? Save us and yourself.”  St. Dismas “…said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise,”   –  Luke 23:39-43

We broke into small groups to discuss what we’d heard and challenged them again to do something by writing a group letter of spiritual encouragement bringing a message of hope and love to those on the inside. The letters our students wrote moved me so much as they clearly reveal how Paul’s talk and the message of the EDGE night touched their hearts.  Someday an inmate will read a card with these messages.

We Pray 4 You
Dear Child of God
You are in our thoughts and prayersYou should also know that there is hope for salvation.Know God is always with you through your good and bad times. God has a plan for your life.

Keep your soul in peace. Everyone commits sin and everyone can be forgiven.

We are praying for your well being.

I want you to know that we are praying for you. You are not alone in this world. You are a child of God just like me. God is watching out for you no matter what you do. We all sin. And God will always forgive you. Don’t give up. There are rough times in life, but they are not here to stay.  You are in my prayers.

Love, your sisters/brothers in Christ.


Shelly Henley Kelly