Interview with GraceInside

On September 16th, we had planned to gather to conquer our largest project of the year – cards for prison inmates. Hurricane Florence dictated other plans as far as our event went, but even with the threat of a disastrous hurricane, our community joined together to keep us on track for this massive project! By December we will have sent approximately 4,550 cards to prisoners across the Commonwealth of Virginia, and about 3,500 of those will be delivered in early October! Our ability to deliver these cards to those in prison would be impossible without our friends over at GraceInside!

GraceInside is a chaplaincy organization that operates out of Richmond, Virginia. Something you may not know is that the Commonwealth of Virginia does not supply correctional facilities with chaplains. So GraceInside, a faith-based nonprofit organization, provides chaplaincy services to prison facilities all throughout Virginia. To everyday people, this may not seem like a great need at all, but according to the folks at GraceInside, this is a very important area of ministry.

Recently, we had the opportunity to do a Q + A with Lynn Litchfield, GraceInside’s Director of Development, and we’re excited to share that with you here!

 

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Lynn Litchfield, Director of Development at GraceInside, has a deep passion for serving those in prison. She served as a chaplain in a women’s maximum-security prison for over eleven years, and continues to serve on the staff at GraceInside today. The call on her life to serve those who are considered to be societal outcasts is pronounced in the work she has dedicated her life to. Her commitment to this work is evident, and we’re
glad to know people like Lynn exist; bringing light into a very dark place.

 

Compassion Cards: Tell us about GraceInside! What is your mission?

Lynn: GraceInside is a Christian ministry that places chaplains inside Virginia’s prisons so that lives may be transformed through the grace of Jesus Christ. Through Christian teaching, preaching, pastoral care, and managing all faith-based services, our work interrupts the generational cycles of criminal patterns, preventing future victims, and creating a safer world both inside and out.

 

Compassion Cards: What led you to working in prison ministry?

Lynn: My one-word, tongue-in-cheek, and very real answer is God. I had always felt a call to “the least of these,” even in seminary that ignored (conveniently) those in prison. When I offered a prayer to God, “anywhere you send me, I’ll go – just send me!” I received the advertisement for the job of chaplain at Virginia’s largest women’s prison the next day. I served in that role for over eleven years, and in this role [as Director of Development] for the past five.

 

Compassion Cards: About how many prisoners do GraceInside chaplains work with?

Lynn: Well over 30,000 inmates are incarcerated under the supervision of the Department of Correction. Based on attendance, we estimate that at least 20,000 are impacted by GraceInside’s chaplains through worship, religious studies, and counseling.

 

Compassion Cards: Have you ever heard of how an inmate has reacted to receiving a card or letter? If so, can you share that with us?

Lynn: Prison can be incredibly isolating. While some might say that this is among the purposes of incarceration, it often leaves those inside with little contact with family, friends, or their community. Embarrassed and often ashamed, men and women can feel forgotten about, broken, unworthy, and unlovable. I remember one woman praying for God to help her, to send her a sign to let her know that God is real and that He cares… and she got a card! Her sign! You were a part of God’s blessing for her!

We hope this article has given you some insight on what these cards are doing! All else aside, prison inmates are still human beings, and we want to aid GraceInside in helping to alleviate some of that isolation and worthlessness they so often feel by ensuring that we can provide a hand-written card to as many inmates as possible. This is something we cannot do without you!

 

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“we are all worthy of giving + receiving love.”

 

For more information about GraceInside, please visit their website, or find them on Facebook! For those interested in helping with their work in a more hands-on way, there are many ways to help both outside and inside the prison setting! This can be as simple as collecting need materials on the outside, or inviting a GraceInside speaker to your church or civic group, and as personal as volunteering on-site in a Chaplain’s Library. Please send all volunteer inquiries to mail@graceinside.org .

Jordan DiFernando