Welcome to our Easter newsletter. It is a special time of year for us as we remember the journey of the Good Thief, who is named Dismas, took with Jesus.
It was a day that changed everything for Dismas and for each of us - we are reminded of this call of hope by Dismas' request of Jesus - "Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom" and Jesus without hesitation, promised Dismas "today you will be with me in paradise."
In this Easter newsletter you will find some encouraging stories of hope, as well as some of the works of several of our community members who tell the story of Jesus and Dismas through art and prayer.
We would like to thank all of you for your on-going prayers and support in our ministry as we work together to build a community of hope.
May you and your family have a blessed Easter.
Rev. Harry Nigh
Two Loves Unseen
Rev. Harry Nigh
Winterlude, 1995 and even for Ottawa it was bitterly
cold. It had to be minus 28 degrees on the Rideau Canal
that night. My friend and I decided to take one last skate late that night
before we left for home in the morning. Except for an occasional monitor we
were the only ones crazy enough to be out on that steel-cold ice.
I found myself scanning the lights of the
homes and the apartment buildings as we skated along. I kept asking myself, "Could
they live there ... or there ....or maybe there?"
Less than a year before I had received a
liver transplant from a 42 year old man from Ottawa who had died of a brain haemorrhage. Over
a period of at least 16 years an auto-immune disease had slowly destroyed my
liver. Then out of the blue just before Easter, I received the call that a
family had offered their loved one's organ and I was given my life back. All
that we knew was that they lived in Ottawa.
It was totally emotional and unrealistic, of
course - receiving a transplant is a roller-coaster of emotions, especially a
gratitude that always takes me to tears - but I wondered if the family that had
granted me that awful gift could be living in one of these lighted buildings. I
was aware of a heart-felt closeness to them as we skated on the canal that
have loved to have met them to try to express my gratitude personally, but that
was not possible. We could only send our thank you letters anonymously... and
imagine who they might be.
So something resonated in me when I came
across these words written to the early churches in 1 Peter 1: 8, "Although you
have not seen him you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you
believe in him..."
That's what I was feeling on the Canal that
night. This ancient writer giving thanks for the offering of God's love in
Jesus, "who emptied himself ... and became obedient to the point of death..."(Philippians 2: 7ff) was speaking the grateful
language of a transplant recipient!
During his "Jesus period" Bob Dylan sang, "For all those who have eyes / and all those
who have ears / It is only He who can reduce me to tears."
Many of you who walk alongside men and
women coming back from prison speak of your gratitude for the people you have
come to know. You tell me that in them, and in the unlikeliest of places, you
have seen our Lord.
It's the profound enigma of Easter that He
whom we have not seen can be known and loved for all those who have eyes and
all those who have ears.
Dismas the Good Thief
The Way of the Cross with the Good Thief
Deacon Mike Walsh
Several years ago a Don T. was doing time in Kingston Penitentiary
and he started writing a number of reflections based on the Scriptural Way of the Cross.
This year Glen S., currently a resident of the Keele Community Correctional Centre, created a picture (right) of the moment Jesus dies on the Cross as seen by Dismas.
If you would like to experience the Way of the Cross with the Good Thief please take a moment and visit my new blog at: www.itinerantpreacher.org/
where we have been posting the Stations over the past number of days.
Please share with us any comments on the reflections and/or the picture and we will pass your thoughts along to the writer and the author. E-Mail us your comments by clicking here
The Long Haul
Rev. Harry Nigh
How do you put a value on a friendship,
especially one that starts in a dark place and doesn't quit?
Micaleigh (not her real name) met Elaine 25
years ago in what was one of Canada's
darkest places, the Prison for Women in Kingston,
known by everyone as P4W. She had just started a life sentence. She cries when
she says, "I still can't forgive myself. To me forgiveness is forgetting -
that's what was ingrained by my church - and the memories still come,
especially when I start to feel good about myself."
Elaine was matched with Micaleigh as her W2
Sponsor. M2/W2 matched volunteers in a one-to-one friendship ministry for
prisoners without outside support. The program ceased in Ontario in the 90"s but continues strong in Western Canada.
Elaine didn't cease though. She continued
to visit with Micaleigh throughout her time in P4W, throughout the halfway
house stay and was there when she came out 12 years ago. Now, 25 years later,
Elaine is closer than family.
And so are
Dorothy (pictured here) and Ida and Jennifer and Janet. They joined Micaleigh's
journey when she came to Brampton
on release as part of The Gate, a Circles-based program for women. They became her
support group, showing her how to get around her new city, celebrating birthdays, enjoying the
theatre, and praying with her.
"I've seen so many people who didn't do
well and return to prison. You have to have a good support system - friends who
will stand by you." Micaliegh says. "I can tell Dorothy everything. I think
Micaleigh has held a responsible management
position for several years. She hopes to be part of a Circle some day to help
someone else get on the right track.
"She's become a very independent person," Dorothy
says. "Knowing her has made me grow as a person and when I have to look for
another job someday I know that she will help me with my resume."
(Dorothy Bingle dreams of involving others in Peel
Region in friendship ministry with ex-prisoners, perhaps forming a Friends of
Dismas chapter to train and place volunteers in a variety of roles walking with
others like Micaleigh.)
Save the Date for these upcoming Events:
Dismas Fellowship Toronto:April 2/16/30
Restorative Justice Conference
Date to be finalized
The Ministry of the Giant Meatball
Deacon Mike Walsh
"Building hope one meatball at a time."
Ever ask yourself-"What can I do in the face of so much hurt and pain in the world." It is a good question and one I thought about as I prepared a homily based on the story in John's gospel about Jesus and the Samaritan woman by the well.
Please take a moment and click on the link below and read how small acts of kindness do make a difference. Click here to enjoy the Story of the Giant Meatball
About Friends of Dismas
a Community of Hope..."
The Friends of Dismas strives
to build a
community of hope by enabling people of faith to get involved in
creative and healing ministry to persons touched by crime.
We are a
registered charitable organization providing appropriate training and
materials in support of volunteer involvement in faith-based programs,
and helping ex-prisoners upon release, their families and the victims of
crime.Please click here to visit The Friends of Dismas Website
If you would like to help us with our work there are a number of ways to donate. You can send us a cheque made out to the Friends of Dismas and mail to the address below or visit our website and contribute on-line. Friends of DismasPO Box 117 Markham, Ont. L3P 3J5or Click here to donate on-line
Thanks for caring and sharing in our work to build a community of hope.