• 09May
    Categories: Hope Blog Comments: 0

    The woman in the department store stared at me as I was making my purchase. “Have we met before?” she asked.

    Nothing about her looked familiar. “I don’t think so,” I responded.

    She continued to concentrate on my face and then loudly exclaimed, “I do know you! I saw you on television. Your son committed a murder and you and your husband were interviewed.” By this time a few curious bystanders were tuning in to this unexpected conversation. Now all of them were staring at me, waiting for a response.

    “Yes, that was our family on the program,” I admitted.

    She continued. “I saw another program and the father of the deceased was being interviewed and he said he had forgiven your son.”

    I mumbled a few words as I completed my purchase and awkwardly left the mall to find my car. My mind raced: Why did I allow myself to feel so humiliated in that store? How many years will it take before I can feel comfortable when someone surprises me in this way?

    Honestly, many years into this process, I am still dealing with the harsh truth of my son’s crime and conviction. I am still learning to embrace my own reality. As I do, it’s been helpful for me to list the changes that have transpired in the eighteen years since Jason’s arrest:

    • Gene and I moved from Michigan to Florida to be closer to our son.
    • I had opportunities to write about our journey in When I Lay My Isaac Down, A New Kind of Normal, and Between a Rock and a Grace Place.
    • We’ve gotten to know many families of inmates, and we have felt a mutual support from those relationships.
    • As news of what happened spread, opportunities to speak about finding hope and faith multiplied.
    • We began the nonprofit organization Speak Up for Hope, offering tangible help to inmates and their families. www.SpeakUpforHope.org
    • The “Stretcher Bearers,” friends and family members who encouraged us, provided examples of how to reach out to the families of inmates in compassionate, helpful ways.


    I soon realized that many good changes had taken place in my life during my
    unwanted foray into the world of jails and prisons. For all of us who face the challenge of incarceration, there is a new reality—what will we do now, with this life we have, with all of its imperfections, embarrassment, and sadness?

    Our survival tools are very simple:

    1. Accept the reality that our loved one is in prison—and use our knowledge of the system and the legal process to help others.
    2. Maintain relationships with friends and family members, even when we are busy dealing with our incarcerated loved one.
    3. Make plans for birthday celebrations, family reunions, and vacations, special things that take us away from the demands of incarceration.
    4. Discard guilt! Acknowledge that a meaningful life needs to be a permanent part of our reality.

    No matter what challenge you face, it might help you to do what I did: list what has happened in your life since your journey began—both the good and the bad. Then, for each entry, write what you’ve learned along the way.

    Following thirteen years at one prison, Jason has recently had a longevity transfer to another facility. It’s a security measure to move inmates to different prisons, but it’s hard on the families—including us! He’s now a three-hour round trip away from us. If you’d like to write to him, he would welcome your cards and letters: His address is:

    Jason Kent X26713
    Desoto Annex Correctional Institution
    13617 S. E. Hwy 70
    Arcadia, FL 34266

    If you’d like to make a donation to Jason’s ministry on the “inside,” go to

    His Words over You

    “Look to me and I will do immeasurably more than you ask or imagine. Allow my power to be at work in you. Live wisely and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious; you will have the right response for everyone.”

    Based on Ephesians 3:20 and Colossians 4:5–6

    Question: What “hard thing” are you currently experiencing? What is God teaching you? You can order Carol’s 365 page-per- day devotional, He Holds My Hand, on Amazon.
    Listen to Carol’s message on Focus on the Family, “Trusting God When the Unthinkable Happens,” https://www.focusonthefamily.com/media/daily-broadcast/trusting-god-when-the-unthinkable- happens-pt1

  • 22May
    Categories: Hope Blog Comments: 0

    I LOVE Speak Up For Hope! Would you like to see one aspect of our ministry?

    As I was packing Boxes of Hope this morning I began by praying over ten empty boxes lined up on a long table that God would bless and encourage the recipients and that He would continue to enable us to do this special work to encourage the wives and mothers of prisoners. Then the joyful project began!

    I had finished several boxes when Gene Kent popped in with an exciting e-mail from a Book Club in SC that was reading Carol Kent’s book, Between a Rock and a Grace Place saying they wanted to host a SU4H project night on the evening they had their discussion of the book! They were wondering what items we could use. How encouraging is that?

    At SU4H each box is lovingly, prayerfully, packed with great encouraging Christian books or devotionals for women, lovely bath items, stationery, gift items, CDs, etc. and a scripture card with a personal letter is enclosed. Each box is color coordinated and a darling Beanie Baby is peeking out of the crinkle cut packing when the recipient opens it. (We try to use only new, quality items and make the boxes so lovely that we would like to receive each one ourselves.) These boxes are then sent to women who are grieving or struggling due to having a family member who is incarcerated.

    Carol and I were tired and just about finished packing boxes for the day when she stopped to go through the mail and brought me a beautiful thank you card from a recipient of one of the Hope Boxes. Her son is in prison and she had been in and out of the hospital and suffering from “a very bad outlook on things.” Let me quote a little more from her note:

    “Your gift box arrived the day before my 56th birthday and I was reduced to tears in a good way! I felt so loved and cared about and personally prayed for. I cannot thank you enough for all the lovely things you sent. The magnet I put on my fridge is awesome and I think of your ministry each time I open the door. God bless you 1000 times. Thank you.” In Christ, Babette D.

    Of course we had no idea when that dear lady’s birthday was, but isn’t it lovely that God did?

    I am attaching some photos of the Boxes of Hope we packed today to give you an idea of what sweet surprises await those who receive them. Will you pray with us for this special ministry of encouragement? And, if you or your group would like to be a part of SU4H, either financially or with item donations, we would be grateful! See below for a specific list of supplies that are needed for the Boxes of Hope.

    Speak Up for Hope
    3141 Winged Foot Drive
    Lakeland, Florida 33803

    Thank you so much for your interest in this ministry to inmates and their families. It’s a great encouragement to many who are hurting.

    Jennie Afman Dimkoff (Carol Kent’s sister)

    Boxes of Hope Supplies:

    We have a number of Christian authors who have donated books, but some other specific items in addition to books that would be very helpful are listed below. A darling Beanie Baby is tucked into the the final crinkle cut packing on the top.

    –Sleep masks in pretty colors
    –Colorful, small sized make-up bags (large ones take up too much room in the boxes.)
    –Small scented candles in containers (with covers if possible)
    –Narrow coffee mugs for coffee or tea (fat mugs are too big for our boxes, can’t be wrapped securely enough and break when shipped)
    –Specialty (individually wrapped) teas and coffees
    –Worship CDs
    –Matching bath items (soaps, lotions, etc.) Preferably 3-4 items in a package
    –Journals & stationery sets
    –Small Bibles & New Testaments (We are very low on Bibles)
    –Women’s devotionals
    –Bracelets, earrings, or any boxed jewelry items.
    –Sweet faced Beanie Babies. (No reptiles please.) We especially like puppies, kittens, lambs, teddy bears & butterflies.
    –Tasteful, inspirational magnets

  • 25May
    Categories: Hope Blog Comments: 0

    I was sitting in the visitation room, picking at the broken tabletop as I talked to my son. At that time, we were approaching sixteen years of visiting Jason, both in jail and in multiple prisons. I asked him, “What is the single most important thing—besides Jesus—that helps you keep your sanity in this place?”

    Jason and Carol Kent
    Before he could answer, my finger dislodged a piece of someone’s dried-out, leftover food from the tabletop. “This is so disgusting!” I blurted out, referring to the crud on the table. Then I realized it was even more revolting that I was picking at it with my own fingers!

    I laughed out loud as I realized how it would have bothered me to be assigned a seat at that table in my B.P. (Before Prison) years. Now, A.P., I’m more focused on the person I’m visiting, rather than the furniture or décor in the room.

    To answer my question, Jason said, “Visits are one of the most important things anyone can do for an inmate.” I asked him if he would write out some insights on the importance of visitation so I could share them with you. He mailed me handwritten notes that read:

    Visitation is the only time when a prisoner can count on getting to physically touch (albeit very briefly) those he loves. Our visitors are also our connection to the outside world with its life, freedom, taste of fresh air, and hope. Getting to talk face-to- face, share a meal together, and simply hold hands means more than I can say.

    Prison is a very lonely place and it’s inherently alienating from the life we all previously knew. Any connection through letters, phone calls, and visits shared together is a deep encouragement and reconnects us to those we love. Friends who come remind us that we aren’t forgotten and they’re comforting to the soul.

    People on both sides of the fence desperately need that contact. You realize in here how very important relationships are and how much you miss everyone that you may have previously taken for granted.

    Visits can also be emotionally charged and stressful—but what is the alternative? We can either choose a slow loss of connection and experience broken relationships, or embrace the risk and the opportunity of seeing each other regularly—even with the myriad of restrictions, personal misunderstandings, and hurdles of prison rules.

    I encourage everyone to take a chance and visit those they care about behind prison walls. Letters and phone calls are valuable, but an actual visit in the flesh is truly priceless. It makes us know you care.

    Many people have told me how hard it is to visit their incarcerated loved one. Here’s why I go:

    • God tells us that when we visit someone in prison, it is as if we are visiting Him (see Matthew 25:34–40).
    • Visiting my son gives me a chance to know him more personally. When all we can do is talk, we often discuss important things. We also resolve weightier family issues more easily than in fifteen-minute phone calls with an automatic cutoff.
    • Visitation provides an opportunity for me to meet other prisoners’ family members, both adults and children. Waiting in long lines together gives us a chance to brainstorm about ideas for helping each other and advocating for our inmate loved ones.
    • By caring for my son, I’m able to follow God’s example . . . because He doesn’t< forget us. “See,” He says, “I have written your name on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16).

    Visiting my son regularly brings joy, healing, even laughter into a very dark environment. Jason and I find comfort in discussing creative ways to show compassion to inmates and their families, followed by sharing prayer needs and praying out loud for each other. Philippians 2:3 –4 says, “In humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interest of others.”

    His Words Over You

    “I hear the voices of those in need. Remember those who are in prison as if you were there with them. Overflow more and more with love for each other and keep growing in spiritual knowledge and insight.”

    Based on Psalm 69:33, Hebrews 13:3, and Philippians 1:9

    Question: What hard thing has God asked you to do and how has your obedience brought unexpected joy to your life?

    (Content based on Carol’s newest book, Waiting Together: Hope and Healing for Families of Prisoners)

  • 09Apr
    Categories: Hope Blog Comments: 0

    Ron Emmorey
    Mothers connecting with their children… a silly, unnecessary idea for a program… unless the mother is incarcerated. What is normally natural and comfortable becomes an unfulfilled longing. “Read Me a Story” provides a moment of connection and joy between the incarcerated mom and her children.

    Speak Up for Hope took this program to a central Florida women’s prison on April 1. Because our staff (Carol & Gene Kent, Bonnie & Ron Emmorey, and Kim Mattenly) was pre-approved, our equipment list (video cameras, tripods, lights, computer) was pre-approved, and our goals were pre-approved – and supported, we were quickly brought into the prison visitation area by the chaplain and introduced to the 13 women who had applied to participate.

    We hoped that in our four-hour time block we could produce 13 video messages, up to 15 minutes long, that we would deliver from the mother to her children.

    As Gene set up the photo studio, Carol explained the program. The mothers would talk to their children, remembering a special moment, recognizing special abilities and achievements, apologizing for not being with them now, and thanking the current caregivers. Large cue cards would help them move smoothly from topic to topic.

    Then came the book selection. The mothers were able to choose from about 25 books we brought in, and they enjoyed finding just the right one for their children. We were prepared to coach them with the reading, but to our delight, most of the women were good readers and were excited about this opportunity. All of them wrote a note to their child/children in the front of the book.

    Once the taping started, the mothers needed far less help than we expected, very naturally talking to their children. Some sang a song and some prayed. The whole group, mothers and Speak Up for Hope volunteers, encouraged and supported each other to a success beyond our expectations.

    With help from the entire team of volunteers, the DVDs and books are already on their way to the children. We are rejoicing and looking forward to our next “Read Me a Story” event.

    By Ron Emmorey

  • 21Jul
    Categories: Hope Blog Comments: 0

    weber_dimkoff_weddingHello Friends! Welcome (or welcome back) to the Speak Up for Hope Blog! Jennie Afman Dimkoff here. I am J.P. Kent’s aunt, and I have the privilege of serving on the board of Speak Up for Hope.
    This past year was a joyful one for our family as we celebrated the wedding of our daughter, Amber Joy, to her long time love, Mark Weber. Mark is a hospital chaplain in San Diego, California, and as he and Amber were planning their very special wedding ceremony, Amber experienced one great sorrow. She knew that JP, her cousin who she had loved like a brother since she was a little girl, would not be able to attend her wedding, because of his incarceration in Florida.

    Amber and JP as children

    Amber and JP as children

    How little did any of us know that Jason Kent’s presence would be felt in a very real and meaningful way at Amber and Mark’s wedding. You see, J.P. may not have been there in person, but he took the time to write a “Blessing” that was so meaningful to Mark and Amber, that they decided to have it incorporated into their wedding ceremony. At the end, the congregation stood, and with close family members gathering around the bride and groom, and “laying their hands upon them” and all others laying a hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them, the pastor read these words written by Jason Kent:

    Dear Mark and Amber,

    May your love grow to depths you’ve never known before as your hearts beat together. May you be consumed by spontaneous laughter and smiles as new joys together are discovered. May you never tire of plumbing the reservoir of mystery in each others’ soul and treasuring each new, unique surprise.

    May you strive to magnify the best in one another’s character and to display grace for the abrasive bits. May you look for opportunities to build, create, edify, and to bless each other (especially in front of others) and be known as a team for such good–that an aroma of peace, rest, and hope is always left in your wake. May you tirelessly stay on your quest for Truth, and enrich others as you share such transcendent good and purpose with them.

    May people light up and get warm with expectation of compassion when they see you two coming, and may you leave behind wisdom and healing in the lives you’ve touched.

    May God bless you both with an ever more intimate, transparent, and beautiful relationship with Him and each other as each year goes by. May truth, beauty, and goodness be your companions on each new adventure together.

    I am happy for you and will pray for you regularly.

    Love, J.P.

  • 01Apr
    Categories: Hope Blog Comments: 0

    Jenn B Adams

    Jenn B Adams

    This year We decided to do something different at our Church’s annual Hope for the Heart Women’s conference. It was suggested by Cassie Fuerst that we incorporate a service project into the event. We did some research into what our speaker, Carol Kent had a service passion for, and soon found the Boxes of Hope ministry. We had around 440 women attend our event, and each woman was encouraged to bring a listed item for the boxes to Hope for the Heart. What a blessing it was!

    hopefortheheart1We received enough items to pack 20 boxes of encouragement to women who have loved ones incarcerated. Two weeks later, we invited women in our church and community to meet together to pack these items. I was honored to be serving with my fellow sisters in Christ as we put the boxes together, each one having it’s own personal touches. As we read over the life stories of the women, we prayed together for each box.

    hopefortheheart2We also wept as our hearts felt their pain. In contrast, we were filled with joy, hoping that as these women received these boxes, it would place hope in their hearts and strengthen them. It was our desire to show these women God’s love…after all, isn’t that what we,as Christians, are called to do? I am convinced that we were created and designed to serve one another. I would encourage anyone who has an opportunity to get involved with Boxes of Hope ministry. What a joy it is to do God’s work!

  • 18Jan
    Categories: Hope Blog Comments: 0

    Ron, Jason, and Gene

    Ron, Jason, and Gene

    Special Notice:

    A position is open in the Gene Kent In Line Waiting Ministry. Gene developed this ministry in response to the needs of people waiting in line for visitation at Hardee Correctional Institution.  While waiting, Gene talks to people, and when needs are revealed, he responds with help.  It may involve helping them understand the clothing rules for visitation, providing oversized t-shirts, or just listening to their frustrations and showing his availability as a friend

    Speak Up for Hope just received a letter from a visitation line friend who knows Gene as “Kent.”  She shared a medical challenge with “Kent” and he was kind and comforting, and then he checked on her in subsequent visits.  She found his support meaningful enough to write about it.

    The open position:  It is for you, where you are, and this ministry has your name on it.  Do what God puts in your heart to serve others.  You will be a blessing, and you will be blessed.

  • 17Dec
    Categories: Hope Blog Comments: 0

    Bonnie Emmorey

    Bonnie Emmorey

    A while back, Jason Kent wrote of how anyone could become a part of Speak Up for Hope by reaching out to the prisons in their own area.  We love it when we see that happen.

    Recently, a widow’s ministry group decided to do that very thing.  They collected items to donate to a visitation center.  They located a nearby State Prison for Women, but discovered that not all prisons were open to having toys & games in their visitation park.  However, something even more amazing happened.  The prison would take the boxes, and allow the women inmates to give the items as Christmas gifts to their own children during the Christmas visitations!

    In an email from this South Carolina group, these words were shared:

    “Because of the inspiration we have gained from your foundation–and from Carol’s testimonies–there will be children whose mothers are in SC State Prison system– getting presents from their mother this Christmas. We thank you for that inspiration and may God bless you in all your work.”

    We at Speak Up for Hope thank all of you – starting with the Widow’s Ministry Group in South Carolina for picking up the Hope banner and passing on the Hope to those in your own area.  Have a very Blessed Christmas!

  • 28Aug
    Categories: Hope Blog Comments: 0

    Jason Kent Featured in New “Grace Place” DVD Series (to order click: http://carolkent.org/cart/)

    Jason Kent

    Jason Kent

    Some of the questions I hear most often are: “Has Jason Kent written a book?”  When is your son going to share his heart in written form? Are there videos where he speaks up about what happened?  How can I learn more about what went on in his mind before he was arrested?

    I am happy to tell you that through his letters, Jason has participated in the writing of every chapter in Between a Rock and a Grace Place.  The publisher sent a production team to Florida to videotape our son behind the razor wire, and cameo appearances from him are featured in each of the six sessions of the small group study.  You will find him honest, transparent, humble, and encouraging.

    Our family is living what some would call a challenging life—but most of us encounter hard places at some point in life—relationship struggles, children born with disabilities, financial crises, or life altering health problems.  But despite our seemingly impossible situations, we can live lives full of grace.

    With hope, joy, and a sense of humor, I’ll help you find God’s “grace places” in the middle of your most difficult moments.

    The series includes these sessions:

    1. Grace in the Hardest of Places—Surprised by Faith

    2. Angels in Disguise—Surprised by Mercy

    3. Longing for a Better Life—Surprised by Contentment

    4. The Secret Power of Gratitude—Surprised by Thanksgiving

    5. Why Do You Weep?—Surprised by Joy

    6. Dwelling in the Grace Place—Surprised by Freedom

    This study will help you decide where you stand when you are caught between a rock and a hard place.  Will you place yourself in a posture of humility and complete dependence on God, or will you just “try harder” and stumble over what could be a transforming encounter with grace?

    If you are looking for an uplifting and encouraging small group study, click here, and you’ll find an opportunity to order the Participant’s Guide and the six-session video-based study for the book, Between a Rock and a Grace Place.

    Question:  What is the most challenging situation you are facing right now?

  • 30Jul
    Categories: Hope Blog Comments: 0

    Photo's to J.P.

    Photo’s to J.P.

    Saturday night…
    Hi J.P. (and Speak Up for Hope Blog Readers,)

    Just now falling asleep, so I thought I’d write.  It’s nearly midnight here in our Gaylord home that we’d like to sell – we haven’t lived here for four years.  It is a unique situation to visit a place with your old furniture and your own pictures on the wall.  Maybe it will sell this year.

    I found some Cheetos from when I was here a few weeks ago.  A great midnight snack except for being soggy stale – but 30 seconds in the microwave and they are better than fresh.  You should try it some time.

    Bonnie & I are spending a few days here because I am redoing the drywall in a kitchen of our rental that had water damage.  Renters just moved out returning to the Upper Peninsula.   I removed the old drywall from two walls, bought new, cut and installed it, taped and mudded the first coat, all in a five-hour period that included dinner.  I once paid a renter for doing the same exact job in 15 hours, and I paid him by the hour.
    Ron Emmorey

    Ron Emmorey

    Tomorrow is Sunday and we will attend our old church for the first time in four years.  We are excited and a little nervous.  When we left to do the house project in Fremont, we thought we would come home each weekend.  That didn’t happen.

    Sunday afternoon…

    It was great fun to see old friends that we hadn’t seen in years.  Surprising how much some people changed, and how little others changed.  I wonder what category I fall into?  I guess I know the answer to that one!  My hair is still getting comments.

    Uncle Ron

    Blog Readers – this is how you could write to your special inmate.  Tell them what you are doing.  If you write to someone regularly, it is almost like a journal.  When you get a letter back, you find what was interesting and you write more of that.    And you find yourself looking forward to the return letters.  Because most inmates never have access to the Internet, email is not available, and the old fashioned letter is a treasure.

    You could do this.  Add some pictures and it’s almost a National Geographic.  Or, start with pictures as a writing guide.  You can make a collage of pictures at Wal-Mart or Walgreens for under 50 each.  It a great way to give that person a “slice of everyday life” on the outside.  Give it a try.  You’ll like it!

    Ron Emmorey (Dedicated to staying connected.)