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:
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.
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
Carol Kent is a bestselling author and an international speaker for women’s conferences and retreats. She’s the executive director of Speak Up Ministries, which includes the Speak Up Conference, an event committed to helping people develop their speaking and writing skills and Speak Up MasterMind and Intensive Coaching Groups for speakers, writers, and leaders. Carol and her husband, Gene, have founded the nonprofit organization, Speak Up for Hope, which benefits inmates and their families. If you’re working on your signature keynote presentation, check out the Speak Up Speaker Certification Course.