As part of National Volunteer Week, we want to thank and celebrate all our volunteers across this country who have been serving faithfully over the years to bring the message of hope and restoration through the life and teachings of Jesus to men, women, and children affected by incarceration. Volunteers are the roots of this ministry, we could not thank you enough!

Maria Hadzis, a PFC Volunteer and our newly hired National Volunteer Coordinator shared with us why she got involved in prison ministry.

The reason why I serve in prison ministry is not complicated: I was called to it.

I tell the inmates in my program all the time that just my being there with them is a testament to how much our Lord Jesus loves them.  I never had even a remote desire to go into a prison before the beginning of January 2013.  Now, I can’t even imagine my life before loving these men and their families.

I work with various inmates and I have been so privileged to have them open up to me. They share so many of their stories and struggles.  It has been very challenging at times, in particular when someone’s struggle presses on a faith point for me that I just don’t know how to resolve in the moment.  It has challenged my faith to wrestle through many spiritual questions.  One of the reasons I love this ministry so much is that I am constantly being stretched.  I am learning so much! God is growing me to be more like Him, as I learn greater grace, I am challenged by inmates who call me out if I get frustrated, and who are real with their messiness.

Being at Toronto South Detention Centre, I experience church the way I believe it is meant to happen. I am walking with my brothers in Christ and with people who genuinely need comfort and healing. It is a wonderful freedom to know that it is not up to me to “fix” them or their issues. It is not up to me to bring them to Christ, it is not up to me to solve their problems or relieve their addictions. It is up to me to love them. To love them in ways that most of them have never experienced before. Unconditionally. Despite their messiness, indeed, because of it.

Many men thank me and say that what they have learned is changing them, but I always laugh and say how much they are changing me!

Maria Hadzis has been a volunteer with PFC since 2013. She has been running a program twice a week for 8-12 inmates at Toronto South Detention Centre.