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COVID-19 | Phone Pal | Matthew 25:36

Author: John Olson


"I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."

Have you been or are you stuck under a stay at home order? Men at Alabama‘s death row in Holman prison are locked down in bleak 5‘ x 8‘ little rooms day after day after day…. for the rest of their lives. They are condemned to be executed. They will never get out. But God wants us to bring His love into their lives.

One way to do this is to become a phone pal to an inmate. There is no cost other than 15 minutes of your time. By responding in love, God’s love overflows to the caller, who has something to look forward to, a chance to escape the harsh reality, and to feel loved.

Here’s how it works: A willing listener submits a name (you can use yours or make one up) and telephone number. The inmate calls using a department of corrections phone. The call is placed by an automated device. If you answer, the automated system gives the listener three choices: push #one and the caller will be connected; hang up, and the call is ended; or push #six and the caller is blocked forever. The recorded message tells you that the call is free.

Yes, just answer and listen. Ask questions to keep the conversation going. Be patient. Hear without judging. They are just excited to have someone to talk to. Be brief about yourself, but it’s ok to talk at length about your vision of how society should help those in need.

If the conversation goes on for 14 minutes, a message is announced, “you have one-minute remaining”. After that one minute the call is automatically ended. There is no way to prolong it. All inmates will ask for money. It’s not necessary. Just taking the time is enough. He does pay $.97 for the 15 minutes. If you like, you can put money on their phone card easily enough, or not. They can explain.

Some inmates may try and extend the conversation by asking if they can call right back after the call is cut off after the 15 minutes. You will have to set limits. Once a day; 3 times a week, once a week, whatever time parameters work best for you. You can be somewhat specific, for example, Wednesday between 4 PM and 6 PM.

Lastly, keep in mind that they are in a 5x8 box for the rest of their life.

Truly horrible.

“Just answer and listen.” and you will have said exactly the right thing. If you can, bring in some spiritual thinking; great, as HOPE, and belief in God’s love for them, in their situation, is a blessing that they can carry forward after you hang up.

For more information, please contact John Olson at johnolsonw@aol.com

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