Guest / Limited Access /

It is 6 P.M. on a sunny Saturday, and the men of Onesimus House, a transitional home for ex-offenders, look forward to an evening of fellowship and food.

The group leader looks around at the 20 or so people now living at this home in rural Chesapeake, Virginia. Surprised, he notices three familiar T-shirts. Those shirts were his—until he donated them recently to the ministry's clothes closet. Nothing sits still for very long. Everything is in transition here. Worn-out clothes, and people, get a dream-come-true second chance at life.

Each week, at least one bus from nearby Powhatan Correctional Center pulls up to the front door of Onesimus House—named after the repentant slave chronicled in the epistle to Philemon. The bus's arrival means Powhatan is discharging more inmates to this aftercare program. In a typical week, about 100 inmates seek admission to Onesimus, looking for more help than the $25 cash the state provides following release.

The ones whom Onesimus welcomes are the fortunate few. Onesimus staff and volunteers feed, clothe, and shelter these ex-offenders. More importantly, they give them a fighting opportunity to beat the odds for going back to prison.

Epidemic of Recidivism

Christians need to study more carefully the chapter in the handbook of outreach on prison ministry and aftercare. Prisons are a huge "growth industry" in 21st-century America.

Some 2.2 million people (one in every 136 U.S. residents) are doing time in prison, according to FBI statistics. Add to that number another 4 million or more on probation, parole, or awaiting trial in local jails. This past year, prison populations grew 4.7 percent—the largest annual growth spurt in nearly ten years.

This up-trend in incarceration has been ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedAmerica's Founding May Not Have Been Christian, but It Sure Wasn't Anti-Christian
America's Founding May Not Have Been Christian, but It Sure Wasn't Anti-Christian
An atheist philosopher ignores religion’s place in Revolutionary America.
TrendingNew Executive Orders on LGBT Discrimination Don't Exempt Religious Orgs
New Executive Orders on LGBT Discrimination Don't Exempt Religious Orgs
(UPDATED) But Obama won't withdraw memo on religious discrimination.
Editor's PickSorry 666: Churches Fear 990 More
Sorry 666: Churches Fear 990 More
How more ministries going digital could unwittingly aid atheists targeting church tax breaks.
Comments
Christianity Today
Second Chances at Life
hide thisSeptember September

In the Magazine

September 2007

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.