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In 2002, Jack and Scottie were invited to do a 14-day trip to the Philippines sharing Scottie’s testimony of forgiveness. On the last leg of the trip, while in Cebu, they were invited to speak at Project Mercy, an orphanage. Twelve-year-old Ezekiel had heard of Scottie’s search for her father’s love and wanted her to pray for him to find his father. He had been abandoned at the age of two and left in “Trash City.” Encouraging Ezekiel to keep praying, Scottie left the facility and thought that she would never see him again. God had another plan, and truly this was a divine appointment.
The next day, while leaving a speaking engagement at a prison, she heard a loud voice yelling across the prison yard: “Hey! Hey!” She was approached by an elderly Filipino who said,
“Today, I asked Jesus into my heart. I have a little boy, his name is Ezekiel, and I want to tell him that I love him.”
Immediately, Scottie knew that God had a purpose, and that she would soon see His plan, as the work of reconciliation burdened her heart. Six months later, the first camp of reconciliation was held in the United States. God had to take Jack and Scottie to a third-world country to reveal His divine plan for Forgiven Ministry. The camps began as three-day programs; but now, we’ve been blessed to take children across our nation into one beautiful day of unconditional love and reconciliation.
In September 2004, Warden Cain of Angola, Louisiana invited Forgiven Ministry to bring One Day with God camps to Louisiana State Penitentiary. God used the Angola camp as a proving ground that nothing was too hard for Him. Three hundred children were wrapped in the unconditional love of their fathers all day, and it was evident that this was a unique plan.
The groundbreaking One Day with God child/inmate camps have been received with great enthusiasm by parents, children and prison officials alike. The child and inmate parent are guided through a series of spiritually-based events involving a mixture of relationship-building and fun, designed to open a dialog and begin the process of healing and reconciliation. Both child and parent are prepared in advance for an event that is structured and balanced. There are many ways that Forgiven Ministry does follow-up with the children and inmate parents.
Thirty such camps were completed in 2009. Those thirty camps served approximately 750 inmates, 1,500 children and 550 caregivers. Approximately 3,000 trained volunteers gave their time to carry out the 2009 camps.
Forgiven Ministry opened Ezekiel’s Room, the first children’s center anywhere in North Carolina, in November 2004. It is housed at Alexander Correctional in Taylorsville, NC. The center is named for the boy in the Philippines and has the theme “Hands Reaching, Hearts Touching.” That is the heart of Ezekiel’s Room. Ezekiel’s Room volunteers work with inmate children every Saturday during visitation time. They minister and share their love with these precious little ones through organized programs and activities. It is an opportunity for children to interact with others in similar circumstances.
In the fall of 2005, in Angie, Louisiana, God impressed upon Scottie a verse of scripture that would take the ministry on a compassionate journey. The words, “No, I can’t,” would not be part of the language of this ministry. At 3 in the morning, Proverbs 3:27 became etched on Scottie’s heart: “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.” From that night on, Forgiven Ministry has known where the power comes from and that we are called to bring good to those who are down-trodden in the dark world of incarceration.
A vision turned into reality in June of 2007 when Adams’ Center was opened. Adams’ Center is a hospitality house for the many visitors who come to Alexander Correctional and surrounding prisons during visitation periods. Volunteers work at the center to minister to those individuals and families. A continental breakfast is served to the visitors that come by. The center offers hope and encouragement to those whose lives have been darkened by incarceration.
There are many areas of service and programs that we are privileged to offer within Forgiven Ministry. Within the garbage of incarceration, we find gold nuggets living behind barbed wire, living in broken-hearted families, and living in children who must face shame every day. What a joy to be part of a ministry that walks beside families in hopelessness and despair. Their hearts’ cry is Forgiven Ministry’s heart beat.