A Minnesota Member’s Experience with the Pen Pal Program
It was not news anyone wants to hear, that a friend has been incarcerated. How would most of us react? Order of Malta member Steve Hawkins, KM, reacted with a commitment to service, a commitment that increased his own sense of purpose and value.
A member of the Order of Malta in Minnesota since 2010, Steve came to learn about the Prison Ministry program through the work of Minnesotan Auxiliary members Faye and Kevin Connors. Around that same time, Steve found out about his friend’s incarceration. At first, he was able to visit him in person, but when his friend was transferred out of state, Steve started writing to him as pen pals. “He shared with me the importance of my simply being there, simply caring enough to take the time I did to continue to stay in touch with him,” Steve said “It was hope, it was care, and it was Christ’s love. It meant a great deal to him.”
Steve’s friend has since been released and is at home with his family. Steve sees the pen pal experience as having provided spiritual benefit to both of them. “Our pen pal exchanges kept alive in my friend a spirit of true believing that Christ hadn’t abandoned him because I didn’t abandon him. But it’s by no means a one-sided affair. It has become a critical element in my life to care for someone else, someone outside of my family who needs me as much as I need them.”
Realizing that hundreds of other inmates and potential pen pals could benefit from a similar experience, Steve, with help from the Federal Association, began a pen pal program in his area. Then around six years ago, he founded the American Association’s Pen Pal Program, which continues to grow. “Christ called me to step up and take a more active part, not only in the life of my friend who became incarcerated, but also in the lives of all of those incarcerated individuals who had no one else to write to them,” Steve said.