BOTTOM OF THE SYSTEM
We seek to know and commune with those at the bottom of the American prison system: violent offenders, gang members (active and former), those in solitary confinement, undocumented immigrant children, those hidden behind facial tattoos and buried in hopelessness, addiction, even Satanism.
These men often assume God wants nothing to do with them, and they've accepted this dark story.
By "deep chaplaincy," we mean not only going to those at the bottom, but going beyond our dialogical Bible studies and encounters of prayer into deeper relationship with individuals. We seek to incarnate in relationship, not just proclaim, the Good News incarnated in Christ: that God delights in us and descends from heaven to earth, then from earth into hell itself, to embrace us and so dissolve the walls between us.
This is a relationship-focused approach more than a program.
As one former prisoner once said, "I lived in a world where each night I wasn't sure if the man sleeping in my cell would stab me. So I had to learn how to trust my pastor and friend, a real person, before I could trust a God I couldn't see." We believe faith--trust--is learned or lost through flesh-and-blood relationships.
As incarcerated men move from facility to facility, we stay in touch through letters, prison emails, expensive private-company collect calls, books, assistance with their families when possible, and one-on-one visits in facilities across Washington State. This is not common in chaplaincy.
BENEATH OLD ROLES
When we truly connect, when God is with us, it is not clear who is redeeming whom. The feeling is mutual.
Sometimes we meet men through our regular dialogical Bible studies and visits in Skagit County Jail and Juvenile Detention. Sometimes through our years of gang outreach on the streets. And sometimes through deep relational channels from one prisoner to another.
We seek to know these individuals' stories, to hear the depths of their buried cries and trauma, and to witness their beauty, healing and resurrection over time.
We believe the light shines most clearly in the dark. And that the love of God is made most manifest to a society when it transforms those we despise and fear, from our demons into our unexpected friends.