Acts 1:8 (NIV)
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Today’s Holy Spirit Story comes from Jim Austin. Jim is a longtime friend of mine who lives in San Antonio, Texas. Jim worked in several companies in the C-Suite throughout his career while serving Jesus in many ways in the kingdom, church, and world. He is a tremendous example of a person responding to a bona fide call to ministry as a business executive yet beyond the traditional clerical categories of our time. He served as founder and executive director of Jubilee Prison Ministry which you will hear about in today’s story. Hear Jim now in his own words and if you listen, in his own voice.
Last fall, I was asked to serve on a Jubilee Weekend as a table assistant. Having worked at all levels of this ministry across the years, I enjoyed serving in this entry-level role again. During lunch on the first day an inmate named Tino, who was part of another “table family” on the other side of the gym, came over to me and said: “Something is telling me that I’m supposed to get to know you. Do you have time to talk?” We spent as much time as we could together during the next three days.
I learned Tino was born with a cleft palate (deformed lip). His father abused, molested, and then rejected him as his son. Tino then lived with his mother, but she was murdered in front of him when he was five. He quit school and ended up living on the streets and joined a gang. He committed murder when he was fifteen years old, was tried as an adult, and locked up ever since.
At the end of the weekend, Tino told me, “Everyone I’ve ever known has abandoned me. Will you stay attached to me?” I said yes. In one of my first letters, I asked Tino “What do you need? How can I pray for you?” His response was “Will you be my dad?” I said I couldn’t legally adopt him, but I would try to become the dad he needed. Since that time, we have exchanged letters each week and have a weekly thirty-minute phone call. We were able to get Tino into a class that will get him his GED. He comes up for parole in four years, wants to live near me, and go back into all the units Jubilee serves.
I don’t know where God is taking my relationship with Tino. I’m no expert at being a dad or mentor. So I’m just trying to show up (virtually) each week and trust God to bless our relationship. I know there are thousands of Tinos within the prison system that are too proud or hurt to admit what Tino had the courage to say: “Will you be my dad?”
Let’s thank God for and continue to pray for Jim and Tino, for the weaving of their lives and stories into a profound and beautiful tapestry of God’s kingdom coming on earth as it is in heaven. And let us pray for their tribe to increase.
Father, thank you for this story we have heard today. Thank you for Jim and his witness and the way you brought him together with Tino. We bless Tino today as your son. Holy Spirit, help Jim as he comes along side Tino as a father figure and cause for his spirit to cry out “Abba Father” (even Hello Daddy!). We remember today all of those who are in prison and we pray for great awakening in their midst, the rising up of the deep wholeness of Jesus in them, and the redemption of their lives; and raise up a generation of fathers and mothers who will become as family to them. Praying in Jesus’s name, amen.
Have you ever been involved in ministry with the incarcerated? What was that like for you? What happened?
Today let’s sing one of the great hymns of the gospel—”Jesus Paid it All”—written by Elvina Hall in the aftermath of the Civil War in America. It is hymn 557 in our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemers Praise. Let’s sing it especially over the men and women incarcerated today as a prayer. If you have an extra five minutes today, take a listen to this modern rendition of the hymn (same tune but with a fabulous bridge written by our friend, Kristian Stanfill several years back). Additionally, if you have another nine minutes, you won’t regret joining in with this rousing rendition of the old hymn from the Mississippi Mass Choir.
For the Awakening,
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P.S. Holy Spirit Stories Welcome
I would love it if you would send a story of faith from your life we might use on a Saturday in the future. We will be glad to attach your name or a pseudonym or anonymity—it’s up to you. It can be a story of coming to faith, a story of transformation, a story of healing, deliverance, suffering and sufficient grace, family reconciliation, prodigal returns, answered prayer, and so forth. Word count of 500–800 words works well. We can’t guarantee publication, but assure you of our prayerful discernment. You can reply to this email with your story and it will come to me.
Jim and Tino are a beautiful testimony about the healing beauty of heart connection and obedience to God’s Spirit! I’ve never ministered at length with incarcerated people, but I did work for 5 1/2 years as a chaplain in an alcohol and drug rehab. Here’s the story: https://hopethoughts.com/2014/03/01/i-loved-1400-men-who-were-living-in-self-inflicted-misery/
Would love to know if Kristian Stanfill is related to the great Ira Stanphill