At a recent trip to prison, Dennis Rainey takes time to connect with prison inmates and hear the stories of a few whose lives were impacted by material on biblical manhood.
At a recent trip to prison, Dennis Rainey takes time to connect with prison inmates and hear the stories of a few whose lives were impacted by material on biblical manhood.
Bob: In March of 2014, dozens of men lined up at a microphone to share their story with one another.
Corey: My name is Corey. I’ve been incarcerated for three-and-a-half years.
Man: I’ve been incarcerated for five years. I’ve got five more to serve.
Doug: My name is Doug. I’ve been incarcerated for more than 20 years now.
Glenn: My name is Glenn Cole. I’ve been incarcerated now 17-and-a-half years.
Man: Been incarcerated for about three years now.
Man: I’ve served seven years in prison—22 years of age—and I’ve always been searching for a guy to be a man.
Bob: These men all had one thing in common. They were saying to one another, “We intend to step up.”
Dennis: I want to tell you something, guys: “There is nothing you have done—nothing you have done that can keep Almighty God from loving you, from redeeming you, and giving you—not only a spiritual address—
—but, also, a spiritual finish line for you to complete, as you finish your life in here or as you finish your life out there.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, July 23rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Something pretty powerful happens when men, anywhere, get a vision for authentic masculinity. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. So, how many times have you spoken at a commencement—high school, college? You’ve done graduate school. Didn’t you do Trinity University, at one point?
Dennis: I did. I did.
Dennis: And I was asked to come back and speak at a little something at the junior college I graduated from.
Bob: —College in Neosho, Missouri.
Dennis: Yes. I don’t think the Harvard of the Ozarks—the University of Arkansas—will be inviting me.
Bob: They’ve not called? [Laughter]
Dennis: They haven’t called me recently—no.
Bob: But you got to do a pretty unique commencement service here, back in the spring.
Dennis: I did. I went to Wrightsville State Prison—went to a penitentiary graduation that about 95 guys went through, who completed the Stepping Up® video series. And Bob, it was one of the greatest privileges of my life—shaking every man’s hand, looking them in the eye, and telling them I was proud of them for finishing this course.
And the cool thing about this is—we’ve now got three or four additional prisons who are interested in starting Stepping Up—a program for men that gives them an idea of what manhood is all about and how they can begin to disciple their sons, even from prison.
And I just need to say here, at the outset of the program, to those of you who are Legacy Partners: “Thank you. Thank you because you make ministries like that possible—
Dennis: —“through FamilyLife Today, through our Art of Marriage® ministry to married couples, to the Weekend to Remember®, to Passport2Purity®, Resurrection Eggs®—all the tools we are creating / all the lives we impact. Let me tell you something, “You make sure you listen all the way to the end of today’s broadcast, as a Legacy Partner, because you’re going to hear some men thank you for standing with FamilyLife in our ministry.”
Bob: Well, in fact, we’ve had some donors step up recently, excited about the Stepping Up program. They have agreed to fund the translation of Stepping Up into Spanish. And so, before long, we will have a Spanish-dubbed version of this to use throughout Central and South America—here in the United States—wherever Spanish is the primary language.
Dennis: And who knows, Bob, it may end up going to prisons and to penitentiaries in Latin America, as well.
Dennis: I know this: Guys in prisons—whether here in America or in any country around the world—feel like they are the lepers of our day. They’re forgotten. They’re shunned. They’re ashamed, and they’re in need of someone reaching out to them. I’m going to tell you something: “They are one of the most grateful audiences I’ve spoken to in a long time.”
Bob: Well, I had the opportunity to introduce you as the commencement speaker at the Wrightsville Prison. Here is what you shared with the inmates that evening.
Dennis: I come from a very small town in Southwest Missouri. It’s called Ozark, Missouri; but when I was a junior in college, my path crossed the path of a former gang leader from Brooklyn, New York. His name was Tom Skinner. Tom Skinner went on to be the chaplain for the Washington Redskins. He was in a gang, and his daddy was a preacher.
He was listening to the radio one evening.
He heard a message about how Jesus Christ can turn a boy into a man. Tom Skinner decided to turn from—his sinfulness, his selfishness, his brokenness—and he turned to Jesus Christ / surrendered to Him. Then, he knew he had one of the most dangerous assignments he had ever been given in his life. He had to go back to his gang and tell them he was leaving.
He said one of two things would happen: “They would murder me on the spot, or they would totally let me go free.” He figured he would be murdered. So, he stood before these gang members—these brothers of his—and told them how he had come to personal faith in Christ, and how he stood strong for Christ, and that he was leaving the gang. And he walked out straight through that gang—
—and later, was told a number of those guys were reaching into their pockets / into their shoes to pull out a knife to take his life—but they said something—something supernatural paralyzed them from being able to lay a hand on Tom Skinner.
Tom Skinner went all over the country, preaching and teaching for a number of years. And one of the lives he touched was a boy—who couldn’t have a different life than his. Ozark, Missouri, had 1,300 people. Brooklyn’s got a few more. I didn’t have a preacher for a daddy. I had a guy who sold gasoline and propane for a daddy. I didn’t grow up in the hood. I grew up in a town that was so conservative you couldn’t get a Coca-Cola® without a prescription. I’m talking about different!
But Tom Skinner said something to me, guys—that I want to pass on to you on your graduation. He began and ended each of five messages with a quote that I have now shared, all over the world, with literally millions of men.
The quote that Tom Skinner said, at the beginning of his message and the end—five nights in a row—was this—he said, “I spent a long time trying to come to grips with my doubts when suddenly I realized I had better come to grips with what I believe. I have since moved”—he said—“from the agony of questions that I cannot answer to the reality of answers that I cannot escape. And it’s a great relief.”
Now, guys, as I come to speak to you, I have never lived in your shoes. You have never lived in my shoes. I had a daddy who was a straight arrow. His name was Hook Rainey. They called him Hook Rainey because he was a lefty.
He had a curve that would come up to the plate, and it would just fall off the plate. The only thing crooked about Hook Rainey was his curve ball. I did not realize, as a boy, the gift he was giving me, as a man. He gave me the model of a man whose integrity was rock solid.
You can’t live in my shoes. I can’t live in your shoes. But in the process of growing up, I ran into the God of this Book—who takes broken men, who’ve made lots of mistakes—and He can take something broken / and He can use your brokenness and mine for His purposes. If you hear nothing else tonight—I don’t care how broken you are—
—God’s power works best in a graveyard, where men die to themselves / where they decide to live for Jesus Christ. As you leave here, you’re going to be tested. You’re going to be tested in multiple ways. I can’t imagine how you will be tested.
I’ve got a totally different background than you; but I’m here to tell you—I am just as broken as you are, as a man. It took Jesus Christ to reach down out of heaven through this Book and help me to begin to realize what my real identity is. I don’t know who the man was who came up to me—but one of you came up to me—and he said, “I found out who I am.” You know what?
That’s a great discovery because it takes God, in the person of Jesus Christ, invading the soul of a man, to turn a boy into a man.
Guys, I want you to hear me. There is an accuser—an accuser who wants to remind you of what you’ve done wrong. And he wants to whisper in your ear, “You could never be used by God!” That is a lie. [Applause] God can use you guys, where you are today, to show other people the way. Maybe, it’s another prisoner coming in the system / maybe, it’s through letter writing—I don’t know—but He can show you how you can have an impact where you are, as men. But first, you’ve got to step up.
You see, guys: “I spent a long time trying to come to grips with my doubts when suddenly I realized I had better come to grips with what I believe. I have since moved from the agony of questions I still can’t answer to the reality of answers that I cannot escape. And it’s a great relief.” Amen. [Applause]
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to your charge to the men who had said, “We want to step up”—guys at the Wrightsville Prison in Arkansas—Wrightsville, Arkansas—who had gone through the ten-week Stepping Up series for men. They completed the course, and they were getting their certificate.
Dennis: And I’ll tell you what—they got the picture. Some of them came up to me and said, “I’ve already started discipling my teenage son by phone.” I said, “What?!”
Dennis: Said: “Yes, I’m taking him through the material as I went through the material. I’m calling him on the phone when I get phone privileges. I’m starting to step up with him.” Another said, “I’m doing a better job loving my wife.” And I thought, “Now, isn’t that interesting—from prison!”
Bob: We’ve got to let our listeners hear this because we asked the guys, after you were done speaking, to just share what they’d learned from the course. And the sharing time went on for about 45 minutes as one after another—guys came to the microphone to share their story. I’d just encourage our listeners—on our website, at FamilyLifeToday.com, if you go to the section that says, “GO DEEPER,” there is a link to the video that we have of this time at Wrightsville and some of these guys sharing their story. It was a powerful evening.
Dennis: And I’d encourage every one of you, who are Legacy Partners, “Go listen to it,” because you are going to be pumped that, because you financially gave to FamilyLife—
—that you not only keep this radio on the air—you are making ministries like this a reality.
Bob: Listen to what these guys had to share that night at Wrightsville.
Patrick: My name is Patrick Davis. I’ve been incarcerated for five years. You know, this Stepping Up program is really a hard pill to digest because it’s truth. I’ve done my wife wrong, and I’m not proud of it. I’ve done my kids wrong. I’m not proud of that as well. I left them. I abandoned them.
And as I kept on watching these sessions, I finally realized that sooner or later you’ve got to step up. My wife would tell me all the time, “Just man up.” The Book is telling you the same thing: “Man up. Step Up”—it’s the same thing; but the Stepping Up program has really shown me who I really am and what I can be in life.
Cadower: My name is Cadower Reed [uncertain as to spelling]. I’ve been down—I’ve been incarcerated for five years. I’ve got five more to serve.
When I first started this Stepping Up program, you know, I had my own interpretation of what a man was. To tell you the truth, I thought I was the true definition of a man; but as I continued to go through this program, I actually learned that I was the furthest thing from a man.
But I wanted to thank the Stepping Up program—and the people, and the volunteers, and everyone that—that they contributed to making this happen—thank you all for showing me the direction and which way to go—and how to be a better husband, a better father, and a better person, as a man.
Ricardo: My name is Ricardo. I thank God and the people who put this program together. To me, it gives me the inspiration to do better in life; but like we were talking about today—success, to me, would be to find the power to step up because many times I’ve been motivated to change my life somehow.
Today, I feel like this program really gives you motivation to really find yourself—find the power within you—the God / the Spirit of God. I encourage everybody to step up. Find the power to step up.
Robert: My name Robert Williams. I’ve served seven years in prison—22 years of age—and I’ve always been searching for a guy to be a man—and this program and this class has helped us. I can say that it teaches you how to over exceed the limits of a natural man—to teach you the proper way / the proper skills to be a man.
There was a clip by Matt Chandler when he talked about praying with his family. When you pray with your family, you bring your family together, you make them whole. So, I say, when all of us brothers come together and start praying with one another, we will become whole and we will be able to over exceed how other people look at us and be a man.
Michael: My name is Michael Poland, and I’ve been incarcerated for almost a year. I want to thank Mr. Rainey and thank everybody for coming to the program. I have learned a lot. The reason why I feel the program helped me is because I thought I was man when I came here until I entered the program, and I found out what being a real man is all about. And I want to thank him for coming down to Wrightsville and showing us the program.
Lequinian: My name is Lequinian [uncertainty as to spelling] Smith. I’ve been incarcerated for about three years now. From start to finish, the program has been a blessing to me. God was already dealing with me with certain things, but He used this as a tool to kind of build upon—especially as I go free. I know I’m not worthy to even have the chance that God has given me, but I just want to thank Him for each and every person that was a part of this program—
—the untold numbers of people who’ve donated money and other things. Each and every person that is affected is well worth it. And I just want to thank God for each and every one of you all.
Glenn: My name Glenn Cole. I’ve been incarcerated, now, 17-and-a-half years. The main thing that Stepping Up did for me—when I saw it on the board and when I saw that it said, “Manhood”—you know, we have our own definition of what man is; but since I’ve been in the Stepping Up program, I have really understood what manhood is really all about.
But what really touched me out of the whole book—that really just was a major impact in my life—I made a decision when I heard the video, January 30th—
—that I was going to make a stand—and no matter what no one else does—what I was going to do. I was going to stand, and be a courageous man, and walk with Jesus Christ, no matter what my friends think / my family thinks—I was going to do that.
And I don’t know who paid for the books, or the videos, or whatever; but I just like to thank them because it has made a major impact in my life. I have been sharing it with my son and with my wife. They are proud of me now since I know the definition of what a man really is. That’s what I’m going to be no matter what society says and no matter what anyone else thinks. And I just want to say, “Thank you.” [Applause]
Dennis: Got to love that; huh?
Bob: You listen back to those guys sharing—I had to think—even as I heard it that night, I had to think: “How might things have been different—
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Bob: —“if these guys had heard some of this from their dad, growing up, or if they’d gotten a vision like this years before this?”
Dennis: Let me tell you something—they are far sharper than we give them credit for. They just—they grew up in moral poverty, spiritual poverty, daddy poverty. And they needed somebody to be speaking into their lives. There may be somebody, right now, who is listening to our broadcast—you’re in need of a mission. You’re in need of a purpose. Maybe, you need to find a prison near you and find a way to be a worm and drill a hole. [Laughter] Get in there and teach some men.
Bob: Probably not the right way to do it.
Dennis: Well, that probably isn’t the right terminology, but you know what?—you get my drift. Find a way to get in there and give some men hope! These guys need hope!
There are other guys, who are listening, right now. You just need to get your son and four or five other dads and their sons and go form a group so that you get a chance to speak into one another’s sons lives. Take a group of fathers and sons through this. Or just get a group of guys together at your church—10/15. We’ve seen as many as 300, 350, 400 men form Stepping Up groups and go through this material. This can really change the course of men’s lives.
In fact, one of the ways I know it, Bob—I’ve had some women come up to me and say: “Thank you. Thank you for that series. That has made a big difference in my husband’s life.”
Bob: Well, if you go, right now, to FamilyLifeToday.com—and you are interested in trying to take the Stepping Up material to a prison in your community—our team has put together kind of a check list of how you go about doing that: “What’s step one? What’s step two? Who do you contact? How do you begin this process?”
And we are hoping that there are listeners—who are either currently involved in prison ministry or those who have had a desire for something like this—who would, again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “GO DEEPER,” at the top of the page. We’ve mapped out for you a strategy for how you or your church could take a resource like this into a prison in your community.
Of course, our desire is to see men, everywhere, go through this material. The reports we are hearing back from people—who are doing this in small groups with guys in local churches or men who are just getting a group of five / six other guys together and going through this material—the reports are really encouraging.
In fact, I got a text this morning from a dad who is taking a young man through this material. They’re doing it, one on one. This young man has expressed interest in this dad’s daughter. So, the dad thought: “You know what? We’re going through ten weeks of Stepping Up together as a part of the process that may lead toward a wedding.” So, it’s really exciting to hear how guys are using this Stepping Up ten-week series.
If you’d like to find out more about the series, you can find that, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link, again, that says, “GO DEEPER.” All the information about Stepping Up is available there.
And let me encourage you, again. If you’ve not seen the video of the graduation at the Wrightsville Prison, that’s online at FamilyLifeToday.com, as well. I hope you’ll watch it and share it with others. We are excited about how God has already used this resource in the lives of these guys.
And as Dennis already said, we want to thank those of you who partner with us to make this kind of ministry happen. It’s encouraging to us to know that many of you listening share our goal of “effectively developing godly marriages and families.” And you are helping to make it possible for us to provide practical biblical help for marriages and families—through this radio program, on our website, through the resources we are creating. We couldn’t do it without you. And we do appreciate your support.
If you’d like to make a donation today, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link that says, “I Care,” in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. You can make a donation to support us. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Make your donation over the phone. Or you can mail a check to FamilyLife Today at P O Box 7111, Little Rock, AR. And our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to switch gears and talk about the different seasons of a woman’s life. How can a woman experience fullness and fruitfulness in her desire to serve Christ in the different seasons of life? Carolyn McCulley joins us to talk about that tomorrow. Hope you can be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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