The Summit Renews Hope and Ignites a Calling in Prison
One of the many exciting things the staff at Willow Creek Association gets to experience is what happens after the Summit. We receive thousands of notes and phone calls about how people were impacted by the Summit, and what they are doing with what they learned.
Some of our favorite letters come from our prison sites across the country. This letter in particular represents the heart of many of the letters we received from prisoners who attended the Summit at one of the 60 sites in 2017. Enjoy and be blessed by Eric’s words.
Dear Willow Creek Association,
I recently attended The 2017 Global Leadership Summit, from prison no less. I can’t thank you enough for your generous contribution in allowing Graceville Correctional Facility in the state of Florida be part of something bigger than us, which is one of many things I learned from the Summit—how it brings people closer together.
After watching the Summit the first day, all that night it’s all I thought about, sharing with my cell mate what I learned. I was very excited about sharing such wonderful knowledge. I was very enthusiastic about going back for Day Two of the Summit.
What was most profound to me was watching the transformation that took place between the inmates over the two-day period.
The first day, early on, all the inmates seemed “standoffish” due to the fact that there were over 100 prisoners occupying such a small space. But over time, about halfway through the first day, you could hear a pin drop. People were focused and taking notes.
During breaks we had open discussion. The further into the Summit, the more people opened up. By the second day, it was stress-free and it was very obvious that God had his hand in it. There were several nationalities, races, gangs, and religions all participating. Where we were once divided by the prison code of conduct, we became united as one. We were no longer against each other, but rather now all on the same team. We were all brothers in Christ experiencing a life-changing event that would alter the course of our lives for the better.
I can’t quite find the words to describe what I felt after the Summit was over, but I guess if I had to, then this what comes to mind:
You know how after an afternoon rain shower the grass stands taller, flowers are fuller and there is a fresh scent in the air? That’s how I felt—RENEWED.
I have always been a strong person who leads by example, knowing the positive effects it has on others. However, over the past couple of years, I have found myself blinded by the truth, which led me astray. It’s not that I lost hope, I just didn’t have much of it.
Throughout the Summit, I took in valuable information from every one of the guest speakers. After each speaker finished, I found myself getting closer to being back on the right path.
By the time the Summit was over, I had a new-found hope of a better tomorrow and what it has to offer. I feel like a better person since attending the Summit.
I shed many tears throughout the Summit and was most touched by the special needs children’s program. That just melted my heart. God bless you for that. There is so much I would love to talk about, however I know how busy time is out in the real world. But remember what Juliet Funt said when she reminded us, “not to miss out on the little things in life” because more often than not, they are what matter most.
I had a brother commit suicide at the age of 24. Had I taken more time for him, he might still be here. In memory of my brother Robby, my motto is to “Pay It Forward” for him. My dad designed a web site in memory of my brother call “BurdenofGrief.com” it is for suicide victims and family members left behind.
My dad recently died in 2012 while I was incarcerated. Since then, the website was shut down. Upon my release I would like to get involved with young people about depression and suicide. I feel as if that is part of my calling. I look forward to attending next year’s Summit. If there is any way possible, can and will you please send a note of thanks and appreciation to all the guest speakers on behalf of myself and my brothers in Christ from Graceville C.F. in Florida?
I think Laszlo Bock said it best when he said, “People have far more in common than what separates us.”
I learned that in a small prison chapel in Florida on Friday, August 11, 2017.
Thank you God and may God bless you all. We all have a story to tell, and I would love to tell my story one day!
Sincerely, with love and respect,