The Unexpected Surprise

Over the past two decades of my son’s incarceration, I’ve learned that my toughest time of the year is during the Christmas holidays.  It may have to do with the colorful decorations in stores, or the lighted trees in yards, or the upbeat seasonal songs on the radio, or with the envy I feel when the driveways on my street have extra cars parked out front for their family reunions—and Gene and I are going to the prison to spend the day behind the razor wire. We’ve been doing this long enough that I am fully aware that my malaise begins early in December and lasts for a full month. I can put on a plastic smile and appear “fine,” but I’m not. 

Several years ago, about two weeks before Christmas, I was startled by the doorbell. It was 9:15 p.m.—way too late for a delivery and it was an unusual time for unexpected company to stop by the house. I hurried to the front door, turned on the porch light, and peeked out. Gene joined me. We opened the door and discovered no one was there. No cars were in sight and no one appeared to be anywhere close to our home.  Looking to the left, a brightly wrapped package caught my eye. The streetlight bounced off the metallic paper and I noticed a card on top of the gift. It simply said: Mom

My immediate response was that it was a mistake. My only child was in prison and could not have delivered this package. However, it was on my porch and I am a mom. My curiosity got the best of me. Opening the card, I discovered a note in my son’s handwriting. Tears tumbled down my cheeks as I read the message:

Dear Mom,

It’s been a long time since I was able to be home with you and Dad for Christmas. I miss you so much! You have poured love and encouragement into my life, and you’ve supplied me with many educational and ministry tools to help my fellow inmates here at the prison. I wanted to do something special for you this year. I hope you enjoy the gift. It would bring me lots of joy if it’s something you like. I hope every time you wear it you think of how much you mean to me.

Love,

J.P.

Opening the lid off the large box revealed mounds of tissue paper covering the surprise. As the paper cascaded to the floor, there it was—the most stunning russet-colored silk jacket I had ever seen—an ideal match for my red hair. Slipping it on, I headed for a mirror. It was the perfect size, as if a tailor had custom-measured me for a made-to-order fit. And the surprise was from my son!

I later learned that my friend Pam had exchanged letters with Jason and arranged for this gift to be delivered on his behalf. It was as if God was saying, I know your heart hurts. Your Christmases will not be the way you dreamed they would be, but be encouraged. I am comforting your son as I am comforting you.

***

How can we bring unexpected comfort to inmates and their families during this season?

  • Invite the family of a prisoner to your home for a simple dinner and game night.
  • Visit an inmate.  (Matthew 25:40-45)
  • Write to a prisoner. (Know the guidelines about writing to inmates in your state.)
  • Invest in organizations that provide support to inmates and their families. 

Many of you have asked how you can help our son as he ministers to the men who are incarcerated with him. As we see his heart for God, compassion for people, and his mentoring of other inmates, we realize the powerful impact of his testimony behind prison walls is because of your prayers. 

If you have time to send him a Christmas card, his address is:

Jason P. Kent X26713

Desoto Annex Correctional Insitution 

13617 S. E. Hwy 70

Arcadia, FL 34266

Please note that the card can’t have anything glued on it and the only things that can be enclosed are:

1) Up to 20 first class postage stamps (If he gets more than he needs, he shares them with inmates who no longer have family support, but only 20 can be in one envelope.)

2) He can receive up to 10 new cards and envelopes that he can mail to family members and friends. (Since the cards can’t have things glued to them, the Dollar Store cards work very well; he especially appreciates humorous cards.) Please note that the cards must be mailed in a non-padded envelope, without a metal clasp.

3) You can make a year-end tax-deductible donation in honor of Jason this Christmas to www.SpeakUpforHope.org. We supply the prison with biblical teaching materials, Bibles, Boxes of Hope to wives & moms of inmates, copies of “Waiting Together” to the families of those who have loved ones in prison, and much more. 

If you know the family of an inmate who would be blessed by my book, “Waiting Together” (90 devotions for families of inmates), call Gene at 586-481-7661 and we’ll send a free copy to that family.

“Let’s spread the good news: “The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”  Luke 2:11 NLT

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9 Comments

  1. Cheri Czajkowski on 2021-12-16 at 8:33 AM

    Dear Carol & Gene,
    Last spring, I had the privilege to attend a conference where you were the guest speaker & your story truly resonated in my heart. You see, last September (2020) a friend on my son’s violently murdered his mother by stabbing her to death. This boy has been in & out of my home many times. I have spent countless hours driving this boy to & from school, church & sporting events & although I was well aware his homelife was less than perfect, he had a mother who loved him with her whole heart. She protected him from an abusive father, and just like you & Gen, made sure her 3 children grew up in church being taught the most important lessons in life, as well making sure they received an excellent education! So & much like you mentioned in your sessions last spring, those of us who knew them best have spent the bulk of the past year in shock, in prayer & wondering what happened, where did things go wrong & how did we not see the warning signs? Thank you for your ministry & thank you for sharing your story!
    PS We have not reached out to this boy since that tragic day but I now feel the Holy Spirit stirring my heart to do so!

  2. Crystal McFadden on 2021-12-16 at 6:15 AM

    I cried with you as I imagined the feelings overflowing as you saw that the gift was really from your son. So precious how God works in such personalized and tender ways.

    Thank you for reaching and serving outward through the pain in order to see the Victory of Jesus in ways never imagined. Sometimes the pain can tempt us to turn inward and create the walls around our hearts and protect where it hurts the most. Only Jesus can show us the beauty in the pain. So thank you for your choice day after day and the ripple effects of blessings that come from each choice while giving all glory to God.

    You are appreciated.

  3. Jennie on 2021-12-14 at 2:43 PM

    I love this special story. ❤️

  4. Marilyn Wallberg on 2021-12-14 at 12:47 PM

    Darling Carol. We’ve known each other for many years. Speak-Up was out introduction. To this day, I look at life with “Potential Spiritual Application.” Ten weeks ago I had a reverse shoulder replacement. I’m doing very well. But I recall saying to the doctor two weeks after surgery, “My shoulder isn’t fixed, it a new shoulder. Kind of like when I asked Jesus into my heart, He didn’t patch it up, He gave me a new heart.” I learned that from you 25 years ago. Shared it with many. Thank you again for enriching me life. – – – – – – Your story of JP and the gift brought tears. He is an amazing man and God has him living in “Spiritual Application.” Blessings and love to you all. Marilyn from Minnesota

  5. Danita on 2021-12-14 at 12:32 PM

    So beautiful. Redemption even in the deepest heartache.

  6. Dyann Shepard on 2021-12-14 at 12:28 PM

    This is beautiful Carol. God is continuing to use JP, you and Gene to bring hope, encouragement and the love of Jesus to families who have had no hope. Now they know that there is no circumstance to big for our God. He works through and in all things. Blessings, Dyann

    • Carol Kent on 2021-12-14 at 2:43 PM

      Thank you for your encouraging note, Dyann! Most of all, thank you for your ongoing prayers. Have a blessed Christmas and a wonderful new year, my friend!

  7. Susan mellen on 2021-12-14 at 10:51 AM

    Wow I’m crying happy tears of pure joy, I was also in prison for 17yrs. I wrote you a letter yrs ago Carol. I had LWOP you can Google my name, I read some of your books that taught me to have joy in prison, the Joy of the Lord became my strength. I’ve been at one of your comfence and met you in person. Your Joy of the Lord is Supernaturally Contagious. Your amazing, I will be writing your son and I’m believing God for your sons Supernatural miracle Breakthrough in Jesus name Amen 2022 in Jesus name Amen 🙏

  8. Norine Pothoff on 2021-12-14 at 9:29 AM

    Dear Gene and Carol. Merry Christmas blessings from my heart to yours. Giving thanks for you and the LORD’s work to which you’ve been called. May you be as richly blessed as you’ve blessed me and so very many others. Love and hugs! Norine Pothoff ❤️

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