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Thank You for taking time to join our journey of HOPE ...
“I was sent to United States Penitentiary Allenwood, a maximum security prison in Pennsylvania,” Jon explains. “I’d been on the wrong side of the law long enough to know that the reality of a maximum security prison was a thousand times worse than it’s portrayed on television. I was in prison with about 950 Muslims. In Prison you have to be affiliated with a group to survive. You can associate yourself with the Crips, the Bloods, the Aryan Nation or whatever, but if you don’t pick one you will face consequences.”
“I hadn’t been there long when the prisoners in power asked who I wanted to run with. I’d seen guys stabbed to death for not making that decision and I knew that without a group my life was in jeopardy. But I’d made a promise to God and I had to walk it out in prison. How could I lend my name and my loyalty to one of those groups?”
Standing before a table of 20 of the most dangerous prisoners, Jon said, “This is not the life I live. I’m a Christian. Do not call me back to this table unless it’s to talk about Jesus Christ or how you can improve your life. I know the rules of the game. If I need to die for what I believe, let’s get it over with!”
Jon turned his back on the men,
and almost certain that his next step would be his last...
he walked away.
Later in the chow hall he found that the only place to sit was with those same men.
Jon slipped into a chair, thinking I’m going to die. Danger charged the air like an electrical storm. Jon bowed his head and prayed. They left him alone.
Loneliness was a kind of prison all of its own and mail call was the hardest. In addition to not getting visitors, the mail stopped coming. Many times Jon lay in his bunk and wept.
“Lord, You’re all I’ve got,” he cried!
That’s right. And I’m all you need.
Then the Christians in the prison began to rally around him. Men serving 20 to 30 year sentences taught him the Word of God. They taught him how to connect with God through prayer. They mentored him on how to be a godly man. He participated in Bible studies and attended chapel services.
Over time, he became part of the chapel leadership and helped lead the Bible studies and conducted small groups. Jon wasn’t in prison, he was in Bible college and making the most of every day. Within a couple of years, the very men who had demanded that he choose a group, started coming to him...
“Hey Jon, my little brother was in a car wreck.
Would you pray for him?”
“Ponder, my mother had a heart attack.
Would you pray for her?”
Jon earned points for good behavior because he never caused any trouble. By 2007, three years after his arrest, he was transferred to a medium security prison in Sheridan, Oregon. He planted himself in the prison church and immersed himself into the work of the Gospel.
Four months before his release, Jon asked God,
“What do You want me to do when I go home?”
Son, you’re not going home, the Lord said.
You’re being sent.
There’s a difference.
Remember the day when you got arrested?
Remember that searchlight? That was My Light,
the same light that shone on Saul when he transformed into Paul.
When his sentence had been served, Jon was released to a federal halfway house.
“We were heading toward Las Vegas at about 6 am and I saw the strip light up,” Jon remembers.
“When I saw that city, I just wept.
I’d wreaked havoc there & now it was my mission field.”
“The next day I had a visitor. It was Special Agent Richard Beasley, the man who had taken me into custody. I looked into his eyes and now understood why I felt such peace in his presence. It was the anointing... he carried the presence of God.”
“Welcome home Jon,” Beasley said. “I want you to know that I’ve been praying for you. God called me to the FBI, in part, for you.”
As both men wept, Jon knew he had a friend for life!
He also knew what it would take for him to fulfill the call of God on his life. First and most importantly, he knew he had to find a local church to attend where he could grow. He found a home at the International Church of Las Vegas. Next, he had to find a job to pay off his fees and fines.
Then, he would start a program to help ex-offenders.
The other desire of his heart was to marry a godly woman.
He thought it best to leave that one up to the Lord.
By 2009 Jon began a ministry called HOPE For Prisoners, helping ex-offenders successfully reintegrate back into the community. When the ministry was invited to participate in a $1.5 million grant, it seemed like a dream come true. But as he was sitting at the meeting, ready to sign the papers, Jon was surprised as the Lord told him to get up and walk away.
Walking away from nearly $600,000 wasn’t really much of a challenge for someone who had walked away from gangs and prison protection.
“The Lord didn’t want us to look like the rest of the world,” Jon recalls. “He didn’t want us to work with agencies whose goal is money. He wanted us to work with His people, those He had called into the justice system.”
“We have a very unique mentoring program. Our mentoring team consists of pastors and leaders from churches across Southern Nevada as well as a team of volunteer police officers. God is moving our reentry community into unchartered territory. When you have the church partnering with law enforcement to mentor ex-offenders, it truly is new wineskin.”
Through HOPE For Prisoners, Jon is also passing onto others the help God sent to him through Kenneth Copeland. “His materials changed my life, and through our ministry, many ex-gang members are reading them. Whenever I hear Brother Copeland’s voice, it reminds me of all those months in solitary confinement when it was just Jesus, Kenneth Copeland and me. He is one of my spiritual fathers.”
Today, Jon Ponder’s life has been transformed by the Word of God. He’s not only fulfilling his call to ministry, but is married to Jamie, the godly woman of his dreams. They are raising three precious children together: 17-year-old Jayden, 5-year-old Promise and 3-year-old Liberty.
During his years in prison, Jon used to pray for restoration with all of his children. Now, God is answering those prayers. In addition, he has led his siblings to the Lord.