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WELS Connection Close-up
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Pen pals share God's promise with inmates
Kim Hansen has found that for her the best way to "go and tell" is to actually sit and write.
Hansen is a pen pal through the ministry-by-mail program from WELS Prison Ministry, part of the Commission on Special Ministries. She started volunteering after hearing about the ministry at her church, Divine Peace, Milwaukee, Wis.
Hansen started writing to inmates in 2009 and since then has corresponded with 15 different men and women in prison. Currently, she is writing to nine.
"I really feel that I have been blessed, and the fact that I could help other people recognize the blessings the Lord has given them—even in prison—is really humbling," says Hansen.
Hansen says when she started participating in this ministry she was more nervous about what she was going to write than about reaching out to inmates. In fact, she doesn't even know why most of them are in prison. And that's not the point. She explains, "These are people who are so thirsty for someone who will listen to them, and it just opens the door to the gospel."
Biblical knowledge and faith varies from inmate to inmate, but Hansen finds that most are, or become, responsive to hearing the Word. "Because you become important to them, the Bible and the gospel becomes important to them because they want to be able to converse with you more. It leads them more into the Word," says Hansen. "You really learn from them because they ask questions, and they can really ask some tough questions. I find that strengthens my own faith and helps me learn by working with them."
She says, though, it's not just sharing Bible verses. She has learned that a pen pal has to be genuine and relational in the correspondence. "You have to give of yourself too," she says. "As a Christian, sharing the gospel is more than the written word. It's sharing yourself—letting them know you are concerned about them. Your friendship, with many of them, is a form of Christian love. You're giving of yourself, and I feel that this is what Jesus meant for us to do."
WELS Prison Ministry has more than 60,000 inmates in its database and continually welcomes new pen pals. Pen pals are completely anonymous as all letters are signed with pen names and routed through the Prison Ministry offices in Minnesota so the writers' locations can't be tracked.
Learn more about WELS Special Ministry's Prison Ministry program.