The story on NPR over the weekend about your book caught our attention! It is very rare to hear of someone with the courage to step into the room and wait for the “murders” to come and converse. In 2010 I had a special opportunity to take 68 people, mostly high school and college age young people, into San Quentin for 2 days. We did presentations for nearly 500 of the residents there.
In the past 16 years we have done over 350 presentations in 100+ churches, 57 correctional facilities and dozens of rehab centers across the country. San Quentin was perhaps the most notorious place we visited, probably with the audience with the longest sentences. It was also the most encouraging, articulate, and inspiring audience we had ever experienced. The facility requested the opportunity for SQTV to video our second presentation to show later on death row. The Hollywood trained video (inmate) crew was impressive, but even more impactful was the way they interviewed our young people afterwards, pointedly asking for their comments for the death row inmates. Under the lights, with a camera on, the inmates doing the video held a mic to my 18 years old son and asked, “What would you like to say to the men on death row?” Talk about a life-impacting experience, especially after having spent 2 days surrounded by, even working alongside, “murderers” who were some of the most inspiring people we had met in our travels.
We do a Christian youth ministry that started as a music ministry in churches and has evolved into a leadership development program seeking to go into the most challenging situations we can find. We do this to share a message of hope, but it goes way beyond that for developing and stretching our young people. In addition to lots of prison work, which breaks down stereotypes and challenges everyone’s thinking about who other people are (and who we are), we have interacted with Mexican Mafia prison gang leaders, had tours of the gang oriented neighborhoods of Chicago led by former gang members, interacted with 4 & 5 star generals of the Bloods and Crips, and become very comfortable strolling the halls of Rikers Island(New York City’s jail) and interacting with the wardens there.
I also own a medium size trucking company and have served for many years on a community bank board. It is very difficult to even mention what I do on the weekends with young people. The misconceptions and fears among the public and business leaders (and yes, even among Christians) is often surprising. The goal of our ministry is to develop understanding of people who, even if their life situations, choices, etc. are very different from ours.
I wanted to express my appreciation for your work. Best wishes with your book!
Jeff Bohn, Executive Director
Shining Light Ministries