I am the stepdaughter of a warden. The warden of Statesville, maximum-security prison. The warden who has processed some of the most sinister serial killers. Stories of prison in my house were not filled with hope or love—they were filled with warning and danger. Never in my life did I ever think that I would have a heart for prisoners. God has the funniest, most curious way of working “all things for His good.”

The Bible says that we are to care for prisoners as if we were in prison ourselves. I’ve read about caring for the prisoner, but I felt that that verse was just not for me. Someone else can care for them—not me.

God always has other plans when I say a “no” for Him.

A few months ago, some friends of mine who have HUGE hearts for prisoners invited me to visit men in the very prison about which I had grown up hearing stories—maximum security, the worst of the worst. One visit led to another visit to a different prison (again a facility at which my stepdad worked).

During each of these visits, I experienced firsthand the hopelessness of the men who are sentenced to live out their lives there. So many are literally forgotten. Some are even buried there after they die because no one claims their bodies. Each of these men has a story. I am not excusing anything that they have done or dismissing any hurt caused by their actions. My own cousin was strangled to his death by men who broke into his house to rob him.

This weekend, so many of you joined in packing gifts. For many, this will be the only gift a man/woman in prison may receive this year, and it is a reminder of how much Jesus loves us. He doesn’t always love what we do, but He LOVES us! He wants US. He wants you, He wants me, and He wants every single heart—even the hearts of those who are in prison.

My heart fills to overflowing when you come into the hallways and work around a table for people you will probably never meet but who matter to the God who is crazy in love with you, and with me, and with every single one of His creations. I never thought my heart would have enough room to love people like the men who hurt my cousin or the men I heard so many horrible stories about from my stepdad.

Louis Dooley and Bryan Stevenson are leading the way in showing us how we can love and remember and fight for what God is calling us to fight for—remembering and hope and love.

Thank you for opening your hearts this season. It isn’t always easy, but you did it. Praying that God will bless our Prison Packs with overflowing love and joy and that He will bless you this season knowing you loved some of the “least of these”.

Christmas blessings to you and your families.