As a young man growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota, Chew chased drugs, money, power, and a feeling of belonging.
He found those things in gang life, but paid a high price for his lifestyle.
When he found himself facing a 40-year prison sentence, Chew realized he needed a new path in life, but didn’t know where to turn.
Thankfully, the ministry of Prison Fellowship was there to help.
Prison Fellowship was founded to serve prisoners, former prisoners, and their families by reaching them with the love of Christ.
The ministry recognizes that the cycle of crime and incarceration affects millions of people within the United States. The organization also believes that it’s critical to remember that inmates are not the only ones who suffer — their families do as well.
Chew’s children were 5, 3, and 2 when their father went behind bars. They missed him desperately, and Chew became acutely aware of how much his life of crime and consequent imprisonment affected others besides himself.
As he reevaluated his role as a father, Chew also began to think about the need for change in other areas of his life. He longed for restoration.
“I finally realized that life I was living wasn’t the life that I thought it would be,” Chew confessed. “I was living on the wrong side. I was doing the wrong thing… that was my rude awakening.”
That’s where Prison Fellowship stood ready to help.
“We seek to share the real, living hope of the Gospel with people who long for its power to make them new,” shares the ministry. “Real restoration begins by addressing the cycle of crime on all fronts, in prison and out, and engaging in a cycle of renewal.”
Prison Fellowship offers opportunities for renewal through several ministry programs: Bible studies and discipleship programs within prisons, family outreach, and the Prison Fellowship Academy, among others.
Bible studies and discipleship programs are a direct way to reach many prisoners who identify as spiritual seekers, but others are reluctant to approach Christianity. Chew was one such prisoner.
He had practiced shamanism before his entry into prison, but he left the religion when he realized that it hadn’t led him to any kind of fulfillment in life.
“I was walking by myself, on a journey,” he said. “But I wasn’t searching for another faith; I was just searching for myself.”
Chew’s family had already benefited from the family outreach of Prison Fellowship, so he knew the ministry had a lot to offer. When he had the opportunity to enroll in the Prison Fellowship Academy, he didn’t want to wait.
The Prison Fellowship Academy is a 12-month program for prisoners who want to transform their lives, even within the walls of a prison. It requires commitment, self-reflection, and honesty.
Participants in the Academy are taken through an intensive course of study that offers a Biblical view of criminal thinking and behavior, life skills, cultural change, and addiction. Graduates of the Academy are offered the chance to become peer mentors for other inmates.
Chew’s participation in the Academy changed his life in more ways than one.
“[It] helped me understand why I chose to do some of those things,” he admitted. “I was seeking to find myself. Drinking, drugs, the gang… I thought that was who I [was].”
But the staff at Prison Fellowship encouraged Chew to accept the possibility of change and to embrace a new way of life.
The compassion and commitment Chew experienced from the ministry’s counselors and staff gradually drew him to consider changing more than his attitude toward crime. Eventually, Chew accepted Christ as his Savior.
He was granted an early release, but his new relationship with Christ set him free long before he left prison.
Each year, Chew and thousands of other prisoners are touched by the ministry of Prison Fellowship. They find new identities in Christ and a new hope for the future.
Their families receive blessing through the ministry as well. Prison Fellowship operates the Angel Tree outreach program, which seeks to meet the physical and spiritual needs of inmates’ families at Christmas and throughout the year.
In the years since its founding by Chuck Colson in 1976, Prison Fellowship has worked hard to empower inmates, extend love to their families, and advocate for justice in the prison system.
To learn more about the ministry of Prison Fellowship, or donate to this transformative work, click here.