Thanksgiving Message from Gene, Carol, & Jason Kent

My hopes were high!  Following more than two decades of incarceration, we were praying for a favorable response to Jason’s application for a commutation of his sentence to a set number of years.  That might have been a sentence of 35 or 40 years, instead of life without the possibility of parole, but since he had just turned 25 at the time of his arrest, it meant he might walk in freedom before the end of his life.

We had the best advocates—godly people of wisdom and influence with a passion for helping our son to receive mercy.  Months of work had been done.  Multiple notebooks filled with letters of support had been compiled and sent to key people in the Florida cabinet.  ZOOM meetings with high level employees of state officers had been held.  Intensive fasting and prayer had been done in preparation for the review of Jason’s case.

But God said “No.”

A letter was sent to Jason telling him that no inmates with his conviction would be considered this year. The end of the correspondence said, “But remember, you can reapply in five years.” 

It was a slap in the face—like a flashing neon sign reminding us of a broken system in the Department of Corrections—as if an influential person said, “These are the guidelines for applying for a reduction in your sentence, but after your immeasurable hours of work in preparing the paperwork, we’re not going to read it. But try again in five years!” 

It was a crushing blow. I wept. Then creeping cynicism entered my thought process. I was sick at heart.

Slowly, the Holy Spirit reminded me of my earlier prayer: “Lord, have mercy; Thy will be done.”  And God said “No.”

During this time of the year, let’s remember this important advice from God’s Word: 

Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”  

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 MSG

Here’s what we’re learning:

  • A “no” can be an answer to prayer.  God often answers our prayers in a different way than we want.  Will we be angry, or will we say, “Thy will be done?”
  • A thankful heart brings healing.  Gene and I started to list the good things that have happened.  Jason teaches in the re-entry program.  He’s taken over 800 inmates through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course.  He’s led Bible studies; he mentors and advocates for prisoners.  He’s in leadership in several of the organizations on the compound. He shares his faith and encourages men to accept Jesus and to live out their faith. We thank God for that.
  • A giving spirit spreads hope and joy.  We launched the nonprofit organization, Speak Up for Hope, for the purpose of helping inmates and their families and for training people in global evangelism and Bible teaching. There is no way to describe the delight I experience when I watch Gene and Jason brainstorm about how to use funds that God’s people have provided for books, Bible studies, needed equipment, care packages for inmates, games for the visitation area, fans for the meeting rooms, and so much more.

“God is in control, and therefore in EVERYTHING I can give thanks—not because of the situation, but because of the One who directs and rules over it.”  Kay Arthur

As you count your blessings during the holiday season, please consider a gift to Speak Up for Hope.  You can give on-line. If you’d prefer to call in a credit card donation, contact Gene at 586-481-7661. Or, you can send a check made out to Speak Up for Hope to:  

Speak Up for Hope

P.O. Box 6262

Lakeland, FL 33807

Question:  What is the hard thing you need to be thankful for this year?

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  1. Sandra Mckaig on 2021-11-24 at 1:59 PM

    I have been dealing with Excruciating pain due to an SI joint issue…so much that I forgot to send Jason a b’day card this year…will try for Christmas tho…I have experienced a ton of emotional pain during my life…(I am 75 and live alone) including the death of a daughter at 17 in an auto accident but none of that compares to the physical pain and if that was not enough I got a tooth ache and had to see the oral surgeon…pain is awful for sure but this experience has caused me to disregard the emotional pain as nothing next to the physical pain I have which causes me to be pretty much bed fast until I have upcoming surgery but surgery IS upcoming!…I so understand your pain but you can be thankful it is not physical. I too have a son who has been a ton of help to me and I do not know what I would do without him being near-by.
    love in Christ Sandra McKaig in KY

  2. Donita Breeding on 2021-11-24 at 11:01 AM

    Gene, Carol and Jason,
    God has answered, He has not only saved you and your husband, He has saved Jason “your son”! God is amazing and He never forsakes us… He does what is needed to bring His children home-His Everlasting Home… Praise God. Though we don’t see or understand, His ways are not our ways and Thank God for He alone has the master plan for our salvation.
    May God comfort your family in these earthly times and help you see the heavens that await you all for eternity… ♥️🙏🏽👱🏻‍♀️

    I know these may seem just words but I send them with Gods peace and blessings 🙏🏽🙏🏽🙏🏽 for I too have had a similar experience and I know just one day seems like a life time and we have a way of creating our own prison. We are human and it takes God to not only get us through, but to provide peace and sanity during such times and I know He is doing just that! Jason is a warrior for God, may God continue to bless Him.🙏🏽♥️👱🏻‍♀️

  3. Yvone Ortega on 2021-11-24 at 8:27 AM

    Dearest Carol, Gene, and Jason, I pray daily for y’all. When I first heard the news of the big fat No, I burst into tears. I thought immediately of so many passages in Isaiah, especially Isaiah 55:8-9:”For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As I reflect on Jason and his prison flock and the Speak Up with Hope Ministry, I remember that God’s character is good and never changes. Perhaps no other family has a heart for the world and could do what y’all have done for the Kingdom. And yet, as parents y’all long to hold your loved one and “squeeze the stuffing out of him.”Thanksgiving and Christmas around the table with the whole family at home would be heaven on earth. May God comfort and strengthen y’all.
    Love & Prayers, Yvonne

  4. Katie C. Callaway on 2021-11-24 at 5:26 AM

    I’m so sorry to hear the news re: the denial of Jason’s request. You mentioned the fact that God said, “No.” I like this acknowledgement and I know that God has Jason exactly where he wants him–behind the walls ministering to the other inmates. I don’t have difficulty in giving thanks this year. Instead I’m thankful that I have completed all of my cancer treatments for Endometrial cancer.

  5. Charlottr on 2021-11-23 at 9:10 PM

    My heart broken for you Carol. I lost my son this last July and the holiday seasons are hard but I know in my heart zodiac needed another angel and this is his plan for our family but it’s still hard. I enjoyed you speaking at sister to sisters in Longview Texas and I failed to get the card with address to send stamps and cards to Jason so could you please send it to me. You snd yours are in my prayers ❤️

  6. Debbie on 2021-11-23 at 8:28 PM

    I’m so sorry it wasn’t what you had hoped for! I also would love to see him free!!
    My hard things are for my boys to walk in strong faith!! It’s hard to watch your children struggle, even when they are adults!

  7. Jeanette on 2021-11-23 at 8:17 PM

    Oh my! So sorry to hear this news. I’ve been praying for him & have been wondering how everything turned out. I’ll keep praying. I sense that there are many inmates that still need him on the inside. It sounds like God is using him in amazing ways. Blessings to you all!

  8. Mary on 2021-11-23 at 7:18 PM

    It is so hard to see r sons suffer i know it well years of incarceration for my son and when he was abused by the guards it was heartbreaking i prayed that he would have the the kind of ministry your son is in the prisons in NY we dont have that Thank u for your encourgement You truly have a heart for Christ I wish i Had that i love the Lord but when things dont go right i truly get upset My son is out now but everyday i pray he stayaway from things that cause him to stumble I love Your and your husbands ministry

  9. Amy Dredla on 2021-11-23 at 6:26 PM

    Oh, Carol. I’m heartbroken with you all, and yet, still holding onto faith that God has a bigger plan that we don’t yet understand through the wait.
    Hugs, and continued prayers.

  10. Jill Fase on 2021-11-23 at 2:35 PM

    Carol, thank you for sharing the unimaginable heartaches of your life. You, Gene and Jason are a bright and loving testimony of an awesome , gracious God, in a very dark and troubled world. I pray for your family and thank God for the opportunity yo know you and follow your very difficult journey. Gods blessings as you maneuver through another difficult holiday season.

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