Twenty fifteen has been an exciting year for ROD Ministries. We ventured into our own building and partnered with House of Prayer Word Outreach Church, we hosted Senator John Cornyn at our new building to support his efforts in prison reform, and we had our first ever fundraising luncheon!
For over 15 years, ROD has been supported and sustained by a small group of supporters—both financial and ambassadors (we call our volunteers ambassadors because they are so deeply committed to their work with ROD). We have been profoundly grateful for our quiet, yet robust ministry, but over the last few years we’ve been feeling a strong call to open up our efforts and bring in more people.
Certainly, God knew what he was doing by planting this seed in our hearts as incarceration issues and prison reform are coming to the forefront of our society’s awareness. More and more of us are being touched by incarceration. Inside YoungPrison populations are becoming younger and younger, meaning our young men go in as children and come out as children in a man’s body, fully unequipped to re-engage into a productive role in society. They know it and we know it; thus, igniting the devastating cycle of recidivism.
No one understands the battle of breaking the chains of criminal life better than Michael Franzese. Michael is a former crime boss of the Colombo family. To say that criminal life was in his bones is an understatement. His father, Sonny, remains in prison to this day at 94 for various capital criminal charges related to his life as one of the top ranking members of the Colombo Crime family. Michael grew up groomed and ready to join the ranks and did so very successfully until Christ began to tug on his heart and call him unto Himself — an offer he couldn’t refuse for sure. Fuhgeddaboudit.
ROD was tremendously blessed to welcome Mr. Michael Franzese as our inaugural keynote speaker at our First Annual Fundraising Luncheon. The Lord could not have lifted up a better man to be the hands and feet of Christ to us that Wednesday, the 14th of October. As we were seated in the beautiful Hall of State banquet room at the George W. Bush Institute, the Lord’s abundance was overwhelming. True to form, the Lord filled us physically with a fantastic lunch that began with a spinach and frisee salad with roasted beets, citrus and walnuts, followed by herb roasted chicken breast with buttermilk chive mashed potatoes, wilted Southern greens and baby carrots with Mushroom demi glaze, fresh baked rolls and sweet cream butter, and dessert plates with dark chocolate mousse with berries and apple tarts with caramel whipped cream. Then He filled us spiritually with Michael’s powerful story of redemption. The Lord’s grace and mercy knows no bounds as Michael boldly spoke of the darkness to which he so willingly conformed and the unmistakable light of Christ constantly pursuing him.
That evening, Michael accompanied our executive director, Dr. Parker, into Hutchins State Jail to share his testimony with the men on the unit. Our classes take place in the Chapel of Hope and that is precicely what the Lord brought that night through Michael. Chapel of HopeThe men were captivated by the darkness that was so evidently redeemed by the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. For the Word states in Revelation 12:11 that the enemy is defeated “by the blood of the Lamb and the testimony of the saints, for they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.” Michael Franzese, by the power and the blood of the Lamb is alive and well, sharing his testimony when others who have walked in similar paths were either murdered or forced into relocation programs. Yet, Michael speaks openly and boldly about his story and does so with the anointing and protection of the Holy Spirit. It took Dr. Parker 30 minutes to get Michael through the crowd of men, wanting to hug him, shake his hand, and thank him for coming. One of our board members, Dick LeBlanc, so often says 90% of ministry is just showing up, and boy did the Lord show up through Michael that day. We’ll never truly know the impact his “showing up” made in prison that night.
It’s difficult to capture in words the beauty of that day. When the Lord fed the 5,000, everyone ate their fill and there were leftovers. The Lord doesn’t just provide bare minimum, He provides in spades. That’s what we experienced: abundance with leftovers. Isaiah 1:19 says “if you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the best of the land.” In context, Isaiah is speaking in reference to Israel’s on again, off again relationship with Him. As those grafted into Israel, we give glory to God for enabling us to be willing and obedient to Him through the power of the Holy Spirit, thereby allowing us to eat the best of the land. It is this way of living obediently that we seek to guide the men of ROD. It doesn’t matter if you’re dressed in white in Hutchins State Jail or sitting in a suit at the Bush Institute. Living a life in obedience to Christ is exceedingly worth what must be given up to achieve it—for by His grace, you will eat of the best of the land.
We still have a lot of work to do. We are starting in new units, adding more classes and programs, and working to add more aftercare houses. For the need is great and the workers are few. Please continue to pray that the Lord uses ROD Ministries to bring people unto himself. Please pray for the proper funding that we may continue to expand, reach more men and their families, and long outlast those who love ROD today. Please pray that the Lord will continue to foster and build relationships with churches and other organizations that will bring together the body of Christ to do His work in powerful and efficient ways.