September 10, 2017

Positivity: How visiting prisoners can change your life (and theirs)

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

From Denver:

Aug 31, 2017 / 06:15 am

Sometimes people surprise us for the better.

For Lorenzo Patelli, leader of one of the Communion and Liberation (CL) communities in Denver, and a man called “J,” a former inmate who is now on parole, the surprise of friendship turned into a deep encounter with Christ through one another — all in the setting of prison ministry.

But the meeting had just happened to fall on Patelli’s lap. At that time, J had been in prison for several years and requested the CL magazine, Traces, in German to learn the language, only to find that he also needed the English one to help him better translate with his German dictionary.

J contacted the Human Adventure Corporation, the legal entity the CL movement uses in the U.S. to run Traces and other various events, to ask about getting the English subscription.

“We got a phone call or an email from [a woman] saying, ‘Hey, I got this request to send Traces to this prison in Colorado, I have no clue who this person or prison is, I can definitely send the magazine, but you guys want to get in contact with him?’” Patelli said.

Not long after, another member of Patelli’s Denver community reached out to J by letter and said that the group wanted to visit him in prison. After a long process of applications and verification, eight from the community were added to J’s list of people he was allowed to see in prison, although he couldn’t see more than four at once. So they rotated.

A surprising friendship

Patelli recalled that at first, he didn’t want to know J’s crime, but then realized that not knowing someone’s full story “is like not even knowing your name.”

“We were really struck by his story and so I knew at that point, even if he had told me he killed 200 people, I would have been, not fine, but, ‘Okay, this is it,’” Patelli said. “But before, I didn’t want to have the opposite thing, looking at him with his crime in my mind. And a beautiful friendship started.

“I thought I was going to find someone desperate or really struggling. And I remember we met a man who was busy, certain of his faith more than me and all of us together, and it was immediately clear to all of us that we didn’t go to help him, but that something was given to us,” Patelli continued. “[We left] every time way more aware of the love of God for us. That God could have said, ‘J I free you right now,’ and he was not doing that, but yet, J was loving his life.”

“Think about J” became a saying in the community to one another when they were struggling with things big and small.

“He became a presence, a something in our mind,” Patelli said. “Everything took a new perspective.”

For both J and Patelli, as well as the others that visited him, the friendship was a surprising encounter, Patelli said. …

Go here for the rest of the story.

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