Chicago megachurch Willow Creek is known for its vast campuses, its 25,000 regular members and the dynamic teaching from its founder Bill Hybels. But the church also knows what it means to be the hands and feet of Christ.
This year, parishioners are putting together gift bags for every, single inmate across the entire state of Illinois. Hybels, who is the church’s former senior pastor, explained the vision behind this incredible work during last Sunday’s service.
“I follow God’s son, Jesus Christ, who was blindingly clear about how I should engage with prisoners,” the preacher said. “If I had passed away at 55 despite all that clear training and additionally because I’m a pastor, I would’ve had to explain to God that I didn’t pray for prisoners, that I had never visited one, I had never lifted a finger to help prisoners in any way.”
There's a lot of evangelical bad behavior today but there are also whole communities like @WillowCreekCC who do things like pack and deliver 70,000 Christmas gifts for every prisoner in the state of Illinois. https://t.co/bqE1Ctvcyc
— Todd Deatherage (@ToddDeatherage) December 5, 2017
Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, is partnering with the Church to help bring hope to this often forgotten segment of society. He, too, spoke out about the initiative.
“God is calling broken people here to stand with Him to do justice,” Stevenson said. “In the Church, we come because we’re broken … we confess that and there’s power in that and we have to share that with a world that has gone astray.”
Willow Creek doesn’t just participate in a once-a-year mass giveaway. They come alongside inmates all year round, offering Bible studies and visiting those who are particularly vulnerable. Due to the incredible generosity of the church, a difficult Christmas away from loved ones is made just that little bit sweeter.
For the inmates, to know that there is someone who cares about them at this time of year is a precious gift in itself.
— Heather Larson (@HeatherJLarson) December 3, 2017
“Those bags are phenomenal,” said one of the inmates. “It gives us a sense of love, … of joy. We get a sense that somebody out there that love us that don’t even know us. That love is very strong and profound.”
It takes an army of volunteers to make it happen, as Willow Creek partners with four other Churches to deliver the gift bags to penitentiaries across the state.
“We pray that every person that receives one of these gifts knows the grace, hope, and peace found in Christ alone.” Willow Creek wrote on its Facebook page as the gifts were prepared to be sent out.
(H/T: The Christian Post)