Thanksgiving ‘above the stairs’


Last Thanksgiving, I shared a story about Thanksgiving “Under the Stairs” where a group of inmates in the Delta County Jail were meeting nightly for prayer and Bible sharing. They were meeting under a stairway in their cell block. Well, a year later, another group is now meeting ‘above the stairs’ in a different block.

But, the content and emphasis are the same, an endeavor where a group of men are gathering behind bars to be “thankful, prayerful, united and eager to see their incarceration in not such a potentially, negative light. Such a group of men seeking divine intervention in their lives behind bars is not typical, but typical does not describe them.

They could be moaning and blaming others for their condition. They could be lying, cursing and being obnoxious. But, now they are involved in a more direct and constructive way and they realize that their inside behavior and attitude better represent the God they say they follow.

Here are some of the words they sent me about the “Above the Stairs” impact:

“Something you sent to another inmate inspired me and my faith grew. I now want to bring people closer to Jesus Christ and I pray I will grow in spiritual wisdom, knowledge and understanding for my kids.”

“I think you have seen first-hand how our Bible study positively affects inmates. The study will continue even after guys leave. I think the study time is the beginning of a new step for me. I can’t wait to get out to start going to church again.”

“Mike, I like what you wrote about (the Book) Revelation where you said, ‘We win’. That’s it. God conquers satan and death. God bless you and I love you, brother.”

“I am off to a long term in prison soon, but my faith in God is strong, so I KNOW everything is going to be okay.”

Some folks consider the incarcerated as hopeless, pitiful and drags on society, and yes, all do need to face the music and be responsible for the consequences of their crimes. But, all of us fall short. All of us are redeemable and worthy and need family and others who love and care for us despite our shortcomings, addictions, etc. Rehabilitation in many facilities is usually not obtained. It is estimated that more than 70% of Michigan prisoners have little or not outside contacts.

You can see that the Spirit of God is not dead behind bars. Prison facilities do have some spiritual leadership with chaplains (Butch Kidd locally) and church services, but it takes motivated, inspired prisoners to provide the care, comradery and impetus to provide strong, positive direction. Yes, with man it is impossible, but with God, “All things are possible”.

If you are “out” for Thanksgiving, rejoice. Say a prayer for those “inside.” Their Thanksgiving turkey will be sliced, the meal not so hot, this group’s hearts still grateful.

Mike Olson



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