The Valentine Message

Several years ago, I volunteered at a prison ministry supported by a local Christian television station. They decided to focus on helping Israel, took Christian out of their name and dropped the prison ministry. It all came as a huge shock to the prison ministry volunteers, so we got together and prayed about it. We decided to ask if we could have the ministry if we changed the name.

I’m not sure how it happened, but I became the leader. I set up the new ministry to run out of our tiny two-bedroom house. Three boys in one bedroom and bedroom furniture, desks, filing cabinet and lots of shelves in the other bedroom. There was just a path around the bed.

I used my checks from the magazine for operating expenses, but most of the time we literally were down to mailing day, wondering where the money was going to come from for postage to mail out the lessons, personal letters and inspirational material.

Porch Light Prison Ministries very much lived by faith and God was always faithful.

As important as the bible lessons we sent out, were the personal letters and inspirational newsletters. People in prison usually have one bright spot, mail call. Mail call affirms someone still thinks they are alive.

The legend of St. Valentine holds that he was a Christian priest who was imprisoned for marrying young couples. This was against the laws of the Roman Emperor Claudius II. Claudius wanted the young men unfettered by wives and families so he would have a more willing pool of soldiers.

Valentine spent his days writing notes of encouragement to the other prisoners, urging them not to give up. He was befriended by a jailer’s daughter who was blind. Some versions say he was in love with her and others say he merely appreciated her kindness in a horrific situation. Christians were often beaten, tortured and killed in the Roman prisons of the time. He prayed for God to heal the girl and her sight was restored.

Claudius supposedly offered to set Valentine free if he would renounce Christ. Valentine refused, so he was taken outside the city and stoned and beaten with clubs before he was beheaded.

Little is really known about St. Valentine, and there were other martyrs with this name also. He lived during the time of Claudius and was killed for his beliefs.

Being a sap for inspirational stories, I loved the idea of a prisoner with faith sending notes of encouragement to other prisoners. I don’t find this unrealistic at all. Look at the life of Corrie Ten Boom.

It’s Valentine’s Day 2009. If we follow the suit of St. Valentine, what will you do today to encourage someone? Will you reach out to a stranger and let them know someone cared? Will you offer to help the old lady with her groceries? Will you smile at a stranger and say hello?

We are all prisoners in one way or another. We all need hope and encouragement in the dark times. What does it cost you to share a bit of kindness with another prisoner?

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