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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32 Comments

  1. Jane Tucker on 2021-11-23 at 2:21 PM

    So many bittersweet stories! People I do not know here in this earthly life & yet we are in the precious family of God & will one day meet face to face. Our precious Lord sees every hurt, wound, heartache…and responds in an intimate personal way. My prayers for those in prison, those waiting outside…our God controls…His will be done.



  2. Kimalea Arrighi on 2021-11-23 at 2:05 PM

    Thank you for your post Carol. Recently, some dear friends of ours who have grown old waiting for their son to be released from a Texas prison, found out that he will be released in a few months after final protocols are concluded. Their son was incarcerated 30 years ago on a murder charge that took place when he was 16 years old. It was my privilege to be present when they got the call telling them the wonderful news. I wanted to share that with you in our November Office Hours meeting but of course it was not the time. Our friends are quite old now and had asked God for years to allow them to see their son returned home before they passed. We are so blessed to haven be a part of their journey and to have have been a support them during their trial. While incarcerated, their son has become a devout Christian and has served in Bible study and discipleship among the inmates. Who knows what God has done through his efforts. I praise God for his wonderful mercy in ALL things.



  3. JewellMrs on 2021-11-23 at 1:48 PM

    Dear Carol, Gene, Jason and extended families. I came here to say ‘I have no words’. Lifelong reflections have brought me to a place to recognize God hears our groans. HE HEARS US! My heart groans for you and your situation. My heart groans for my own. My heart groans for all of mankind. My head would like to smack Eve, and then Adam. But, it is what it is and so we groan. The sun, moon, stars, and yes, the earth, hang out because God put them/us right where He deemed His creation should be. My comment here probably does not make you feel cozy and comforted in the current situation you find yourself in. The ONLY comfort I find in scripture is under the shelter of the Almighty’s wing. There is shelter AND protection. So, for this season, may you and yours find yourself under His Wing. Your sister through Christ. ~Mickey



  4. Michelle Chandler on 2021-11-23 at 12:19 PM

    Thank you and your family



  5. Maree Dee on 2021-11-23 at 12:08 PM

    I am so sorry for this answer. I won’t stop praying for his release. Thank you for sharing your gratitude in the midst of hard answers. That’s what I love about you. Your story has inspired me in more ways than you will ever know.



  6. Debbie Proctor on 2021-11-23 at 11:30 AM

    My heart breaks for you, Gene, and Jason. I have shared your story with many Christian friends and family. I was so hopeful that Jason would find favor with the board and his sentence would be reduced. It blessed me to read how you have handled God’s answer, but it does cause me to think “why God”. Know that I will continue to pray and continue to believe for a favorable answer in five years. Stay strong. I stand in awe of what God is doing through this heart wrenching situation.



  7. Joanne Schneider on 2021-11-23 at 11:13 AM

    I was ready to give up. Give up writing my story. Because of cutting words by my own sister, who said to me – “I didn’t think that was important” when I asked her why she had not attended a reading initiated by the writer’s group I was a part of. Echoing in my spirit and soul was – “I didn’t think YOU were important.” That is the power of words! But God – spoke into my spirit this morning – “Keep writing, Joanne. Remember, your life story was designed by me so others could be encouraged by your telling of it.” And I’m thinking of your son Jason, a person God has strategically placed on the “Inside” where you all cannot go, into a ministry where he and his story can be effectively be told.” Be encouraged, Carol!



  8. Karen on 2021-11-23 at 10:43 AM

    Oh wow our hearts are saddened at their response but your son is a light and Hope to many who have no one in their corner. I’m sure God is using him mightily. God bless all 3 of you with his peace and joy in the wait



  9. Linda Byars on 2021-11-23 at 10:14 AM

    Dear Carol,

    Thank you for letting us know how Jason is and what he is doing. I do pray for him and my son.

    Jason had advised me about my son’s case.
    With Nesara coming and many evil- doers being caught,
    I believe he will be paroled.

    My son is doing good works in his walk through this.
    He had turned totally to God.For that, I am grateful.

    Please keep us updated ! All the best to you and your family.

    Love,
    Linda Byars



  10. Tricia Harmon on 2021-11-23 at 10:12 AM

    Your words are piercing my heart after a night of real spiritual and emotional struggle over the choices my own son has made in the past, and the possible consequences that effect us all. Thank you for modeling Christlike grace and gratitude in the midst of what God is doing now, rather than wallowing in the pain and discouragement of what Satan and sin did then.
    W/ love and prayers for you and your family,



  11. Carolyn Potter on 2021-11-23 at 10:12 AM

    Your story has long encouraged my heart as my family and I have struggled with the challenges of my son’s mental health and drug use. His encounters with the legal system has made it even worse as his treatment was continually disrupted by that broken system. On November 9, 2021, we received word that God said “no” to our countless requests for healing and took Jay home to Himself. Our pain and grief are immense, but we are comforted that Jay is with Jesus due to his accepting Christ. Daily I am comforted by Isaiah 57:1-2. He is healed, just not as we had hoped.



    • Jane Tucker on 2021-11-23 at 2:10 PM

      Thank you for your story. We all seem to have one…God is ever near! I pray often for dear ones in prison, those held captive by drugs/alcohol, hurting, wounded families(mine included). This is words to an old hymn that comfort me at times. “Come ye disconsolate, wher-e’er ye languish; come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel; here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish; earth hath no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal.” Love you in Christ!



  12. Kathy Collard Miller on 2021-11-23 at 9:47 AM

    Thank you so much for sharing, Carol. Such a hard journey alongside a good God. But at times the disappointment is overwhelming. Your story is for all of us because we all face disappointment even if not to the degree of yours. But I know you would say that it doesn’t matter. We all face the disappointment and the temptation to be cynical. Such a good reminder. Thank you.



  13. Linda Daniel on 2021-11-23 at 8:49 AM

    Carol: My heart breaks for you as I know first hand as a Mom with an only child, my Son also incarcerated with Life without parole. We just marked 11 yrs and have had that same Appeals door slammed in our face with a No several times. My Son does all of his Legal work as Pro Se because retired I only have my SS to barely support myself & still put $ on my Son’s Inmate Trust account.
    I do all of his legal copying, filing & research for him. We have just filed his Final Appeal attempt in Oct 2021 & we are trying to hang on with Hope that the UNJUST Criminal System we live within will forever once see the Injustice in his case & let me come home Time Served! A 5 yr sentence was completely wronged into Life without Parole! I continue to pray for God’s Will to be done & (if) we once again receive that horrible word, No, I am praying for strength to continue to hang on. But my biggest fear is for my Son to not lose all hope & be able to continue to hang on….
    Thank you Carol, Gene & especially Jason for always reminding me we are not alone. I have been following all of you for years. Happy (?) Thanksgiving & GOD BLESS YOU🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻



  14. Nanci Fisher on 2021-11-23 at 7:58 AM

    Your book, When I Lay My Issac Down, is one of my mist treasured volumes. I bought it because the title intrigued me, not knowing it was a personal story. It sat on my bookcase for a few months until in one of my most difficult times, I picked it up hoping that reading would be a a diversion from my struggle. My situation was not even close to your experience, but your story brought the beginning of healing as I wept through the pages not once but twice in a few days. Prayers for you and your son. As Jason ministers in a place where few of us will go, all of you are examples of courage and faith in a faithful God.



  15. Renee Fehr on 2021-11-23 at 7:47 AM

    Carol,

    I feel your disappoint but you have taught me God has a plan, trust in him and go with it but never lose hope. Can I send Jason a book? I wrote it after hearing you speak about your family’s story. It’s about my 27 year battle to convict my sister’s killer. I’d love to share it along with a personal note. Happy Thanksgiving.



  16. Shelly Johns on 2021-11-23 at 7:32 AM

    Hi Carol, Gene and Jason. God continues to amaze and encourage my heart through each of you. Your story, commitment, and “standing” (having done all…stand) help me see what is truly important—glorifying Him in all things. Thank you for the transparency through the years. What a beautiful tapestry of faith displayed!



  17. Latonia Davis on 2021-11-23 at 7:15 AM

    Thank you Carol for sharing. I found your blog very encouraging and it brought tears to my eyes. Keep on fighting the good fight of faith and don’t give up. The Lord Jesus is forever faithful! My prayers are with you and your family. Happy Thanksgiving!



  18. Edna. Denise Owens on 2021-11-23 at 6:55 AM

    It’s hard when God says no. But it’s his peace that sustains us and his plan we trust in. Continue to walk with God, he will deliver in his time. God bless Jason and you and Gene and your ministry.



  19. Cherrilynn on 2021-11-23 at 6:34 AM

    Oh Carol, I can’t even imagine your heartbreak. I’m praying. I’m thankful My sisters are here on Earth but there’s division amongst them so please pray.
    Also I won’t see my son on the holidays but I’ll be able to see him for 6 hours on December 19th. He is in a restoration program. Thank God it’s Christian.



  20. Carolyn Dale Newell on 2021-11-23 at 6:34 AM

    Thank you, Carol, this is so encouraging. Praying for Jason and your family. Happy Thanksgiving!



    • Carol Kent on 2021-11-23 at 9:39 AM

      Thank you for those prayers, Carolyn!



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