“Teamwork makes the dream work,” goes the popular expression. In 2015 a benevolent dream came true for the Eastern PA Conference Prison Ministry and Restorative Justice Team (PMRJ Team) and for thousands of prison inmates who might have otherwise felt alone and forgotten at Christmastime.
The team was able to collect and distribute over 5,000 signed Christmas cards with caring, handwritten notes to inmates in six correctional facilities in Eastern PA. This year they’ll do it again with the hope of reaching even more inmates.
And they will start Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Adjourned Session of Annual Conference, at Bethany UMC in Macungie. Team members in the church lobby will invite conference members to come to their table and sign Christmas cards that may be the only gift many inmates will receive. They’re hoping to surpass the 265 signatures they collected at the 2015 Adjourned Session.
Indeed, last year the small prison ministry team was as determined and well-traveled as Ol’ St. Nick on Christmas Eve. They faithfully took bundles of cards to meetings, gatherings and events around the conference to collect signatures and greetings.
But the “dream team” got a lot bigger, as dozens of helpful churches pitched in. They downloaded, printed and folded the pre-designed online cards, collected members’ signatures and words of encouragement, and then delivered them in bulk to conference and district offices.
Like last year, the cards are carefully designed with words and images pre-approved by prison authorities. Suggested greetings and instructions are provided. The cards will be screened for compliance, delivered to correctional facilities in six Eastern PA counties and given to grateful inmates to make Christmas just a little bit brighter.
“This year we hope to reach even more inmates,” said PMRJ Team leader Marilyn Schneider, who is thankful for broad support, especially from churches that prepare and deliver cards and from districts that make their offices available as collection sites.
“Everybody Can Do Something” is an overall theme the team promotes for anyone who wonders how they could be involved in prison ministry. This project is living proof. It offers a task that’s as easy as writing a few, heart-touching words and then signing one’s name; but it’s more beneficial to lonely hearts than most people might imagine.
As Schneider writes in her message to churches, “Your participation in this project can help send a powerful message of God’s love to those who are incarcerated and remind them of their identity as God’s sons and daughters at a time at which they may be feeling very much alone. We hope that many will be reached through this project this year.”
Cards must be turned in by Monday, Nov. 7, to be sorted and delivered to facilities before Thanksgiving.
Please see these documents for more information and instructions: