Thanksgiving Message from Gene, Carol, & Jason Kent
My hopes were high! Following more than two decades of incarceration, we were praying for a favorable response to Jason’s application for a commutation of his sentence to a set number of years. That might have been a sentence of 35 or 40 years, instead of life without the possibility of parole, but since he had just turned 25 at the time of his arrest, it meant he might walk in freedom before the end of his life.
We had the best advocates—godly people of wisdom and influence with a passion for helping our son to receive mercy. Months of work had been done. Multiple notebooks filled with letters of support had been compiled and sent to key people in the Florida cabinet. ZOOM meetings with high level employees of state officers had been held. Intensive fasting and prayer had been done in preparation for the review of Jason’s case.
But God said “No.”
A letter was sent to Jason telling him that no inmates with his conviction would be considered this year. The end of the correspondence said, “But remember, you can reapply in five years.”
It was a slap in the face—like a flashing neon sign reminding us of a broken system in the Department of Corrections—as if an influential person said, “These are the guidelines for applying for a reduction in your sentence, but after your immeasurable hours of work in preparing the paperwork, we’re not going to read it. But try again in five years!”
It was a crushing blow. I wept. Then creeping cynicism entered my thought process. I was sick at heart.
Slowly, the Holy Spirit reminded me of my earlier prayer: “Lord, have mercy; Thy will be done.” And God said “No.”
During this time of the year, let’s remember this important advice from God’s Word:
“Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 MSG
Here’s what we’re learning:
- A “no” can be an answer to prayer. God often answers our prayers in a different way than we want. Will we be angry, or will we say, “Thy will be done?”
- A thankful heart brings healing. Gene and I started to list the good things that have happened. Jason teaches in the re-entry program. He’s taken over 800 inmates through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University course. He’s led Bible studies; he mentors and advocates for prisoners. He’s in leadership in several of the organizations on the compound. He shares his faith and encourages men to accept Jesus and to live out their faith. We thank God for that.
- A giving spirit spreads hope and joy. We launched the nonprofit organization, Speak Up for Hope, for the purpose of helping inmates and their families and for training people in global evangelism and Bible teaching. There is no way to describe the delight I experience when I watch Gene and Jason brainstorm about how to use funds that God’s people have provided for books, Bible studies, needed equipment, care packages for inmates, games for the visitation area, fans for the meeting rooms, and so much more.
“God is in control, and therefore in EVERYTHING I can give thanks—not because of the situation, but because of the One who directs and rules over it.” Kay Arthur
As you count your blessings during the holiday season, please consider a gift to Speak Up for Hope. You can give on-line. If you’d prefer to call in a credit card donation, contact Gene at 586-481-7661. Or, you can send a check made out to Speak Up for Hope to:
Speak Up for Hope
P.O. Box 6262
Lakeland, FL 33807
Question: What is the hard thing you need to be thankful for this year?
I understand your disappointment at God’s “no” because that was His answer to us when we asked for healing for my husband. Like your family, we are pressing into the Holy One and trusting Him in the midst of our pain.
Blessings to you!
Than you Carol. I’ve wondered many times regarding the outcome, as time went on I knew in my heart the results were not what we had prayed for. …I will continue praying.
I’m so thankful for your tremendous efforts. I pray daily for Jason and will til my last breath here on earth.
I’m sending your message to Gary Petree at Hardee W.C. as he and Jason were good friends, he speaks of Jason often at visitation.
May Our Savior continue to bless each of you as you continue His work..
Dear Carol, Gene and Jason,
My heart goes out to you all after reading the response you received to Jason’s application for commutation. It is not what we all were praying for. Even so, your Thanksgiving message was so full of hope and trust in the Lord!
You are bringing the love of the Lord to a hurting world, and I thank the Lord for you all!
Carol, your message reminded me of how the Apostle Paul was in prison, and Silas, Joseph, Peter, James, John, Daniel, John the Baptist, Jeremiah, Micaiah, Zedekiah, and even Our Lord Jesus was in prison. While Paul was in prison, he wrote many of the letters that we read in the Gospels today. As Pope St. John Paul II once said, “Don’t waste your suffering!” Jason and you and Gene certainly have turned your suffering into serving others.
I will continue to pray for you, Gene and Jason. I will continue to pray for Jason to have his sentence commuted.
As difficult as it is to understand, I read once that God’s “no” is sometimes a “not now” because He has something far better planned than we are even asking for. As in Ephesians 3:20, He always goes above and beyond what we can even imagine. God is in control and we can trust in Him completely.
Thanking God for you, Gene and Jason this Thanksgiving!
Blessings, love and prayers always
Dear Carol, Gene, and Jason, Your lives are a shining light to those of us who are in deep despair. When I first read your story, Carol, I was overwhelmed. How could God allow such tragedy in the lives of such precious people? I pray God’s blessings on you all for a most blessed Thanksgiving. Only time will tell all the lives you have touched because you all chose to believe in our ever faithful God.
Carol, keep me in your prayers also. As I pray for you Jason and family. I was going to put the paperwork for Commutation for my son. When I heard of Jason’s outcome and saw the letter the Governor signed. I am waiting and praying for God’s timing. I also cried. But thank you for always sharing and showing me God’s words. Our miracle will arrive. I declare this law will change.
I remain in prayer
My son is also in Florida prison system
Hi Rose, my name is Marilyn. Is your son serving Life with out the possibility of parole? My son is, he is also in the Florida prison you hear about them getting rid of paper mail? Please get back to me when you can, I really don’t have anyone to talk with about prison stuff. Thank you and God bless.
Hi Marilyn, there’s a facebook group called Florida Cares Charity that shares a lot of news and updates on the Florida prisons and also any possible legislation for criminal justice reform. You can ask to join and become part of a large group of members with incarcerated loved ones to support each other. God Bless!
I have no way of reaching out to you .
Let me try to find out. I will be more than happy to speak to you.
Continuing my prayers for Jason. Peace to all of you!!
I am so sorry for a broken Criminal Justice system. My son Ryan has been incarcerated fir 6 years now, serving a 30-year sentence. He won’t come up for parole until he’s served half his sentence. I can’t imagine your position. I do know somewhat what it’s like to get many letters together and having the judge not read them. Thank you for your encouraging words. At least we l ow that we will all be in Heaven together. Blessings and Happy Thanksgiving!!! Because Jesus Lives’!! Holly Beth Otey
Just curious..can you appeal to Governor Santis’ office? I’ve followed your son’s story. So thankful God is using him in mighty ways where he’s located for such a time as this! The other inmates need him! My friend always reminds me “God knows your address!” He knows your son’s address. I will be praying for all of you. Only trust Him..He is trustworthy with the details of our lives!
No words to explain my feelings are heartfelt for you all . It may not be in God’s plan but I’m not one who believes our justice system works well . Those that prosper and do so well are yet turned away . Makes pressure on them harder . My deepest prayers out to you and family. God bless you ❤
Praying for a miracle for Jason, your book help me get thru when my was in prison for 8 years.
Carol I am so sorry – I have followed your story for a long time and I admire your family’s faith. I’m grateful you are honest about how you feel – showing us the real you – and then allowing the Spirit of God to enter into the situation once again and being obedient to listen to His voice. Heaven must surely look very sweet to you and your family knowing at that time you will all be together. My story is VERY different from yours but the path the Lord put me on was so different than what I expected. Once again Carol, no comparison at all to the path you have all been on. But the same Holy Spirit – I wish you and your family nothing but the best and I pray that God would make a way where there seems to be no way. Blessings to you and your family – From a fellow sister in Christ.
I am so sorry that you received a “no”. I pray that next time you will get your yes. Your books helped me so much when my son was in prison for 4 years. That was 20 years ago and he is working very hard to make a good life for his family. I am blessed to have 2 grandsons that he adores and he put himself through college. He led others to Christ in prison. It sounds like Jason is making the most of his life in prison. I know all to well the heartache you are going through and even more so because you see no end in sight to Jason’s life in prison. I admire your faith and your strength.
The Florida Corrections system is indeed flawed. I wish we would see some changes.
God bless you for helping others and for loving your son unconditionally.
Thank you for your comment, Carol, that GOD said “No”. That perspective teaches all of us that no matter who mistreats us, they are only the humans that God is using to accomplish in and through us what is best for us. I am certain that learning that truth was not easy for any of you, but thank you for teaching us what you have learned through this devastating experience.so that we can learn it, as well. I am continuing to pray that none of you will give in to despair.
We can only imagine how this situation is for the three of you! God is holding all of you in the palm of is hands. Your strength is open and contagious to all of us who know your family’s story! You are all fervently prayed for; commutation for Jason is at the top of the prayer list. God has been using you all mightily; In His almightyness He waited for the right time for each of you! Our prayers will continue as will God’s work for the three of you continues too. He isn’t finished with any of you! Keep your Faith one day at a time. You are all loved.❤
Carol – Praying for you, Gene and Jason. I understand the answer of no and realizing that God knows what He’s doing. My son hasn’t had the opportunity for his time before the parole board…we are down to less than 8 years. He reminds me, in his words and actions, that God is moving mightily in “my” boy and He has transformed him from the angry, defiant child of 18 to a spirit-filled, Jesus sharing man during this 17+years. And, he gives all the credit to God! My heart breaks for you and your family, but I also rejoice in how God is going to continue to use Jason. Even in this. Blessings to you in this season of Thanksgiving.
Our son was hit by a vehicle in April this year. The doctors said, “he would always be on a feeding tube, and ventilator. He had been in the hospital a week- never woke up – when we made the decision (after much prayer) to take him off the ventilator. We knew our son would never want to live like this.
He died soon after taking him on the ventilator. We have a peace he is with the Lord and what a joy to know he is no longer suffering.
God took this situation and a settlement was reached- God has blessed us beyond anything we could ever imagine. He takes the bad that happens and will bring something good out of it. We know our son is no longer in pain- to God be the glory!
My prayers are with you and your family. Your ministry has been a blessing to me for several years as I’ve had to learn to wait for God and trust Him in the life of my son. I am so sorry you did not receive the answer you wanted. It is a blessing to see how God has transformed your son and used in him to lead others into the transforming power and grace of our Father. My heartfelt prayers go out for you, your husband, and your son. Your story gives me hope. You helped me some years back when I began my journey with my son, and I will always be thankful. May God bless and keep you always.
Prayers always for you all.
As a mother of an inmate my heart goes out to you. Sometimes I feel that the parents grieve harder over this than their child does. I’ve followed your story from the beginning and I look forward to the day that you get the good news you so diligently work, pray, and hope for!
I feel silly saying what I hoped for after watching the yars of Jason. It effects my heart each time. What God says no to, I know it is not wasted as we have a desire and a hope and he has a desired outcome we can not understand in the moment..
For years I had prayed to do ministry with my husband for marriage and adultery in marriage.
When Tom was diagnosed three years ago with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, the fight changed to caretaking for me and the desire for his healing. Both of those hopes died in me when he passed on to heaven in June.
Now it is my time for healing and to move forward in health in spirit, soul, and body. I am now praying toward my book that has been delayed for years. I surrender to his desire as he has my attention and heart.
Just found out my son was denied parole…..again. He has done everything he can to make parole. Parole Board didn’t bother to honor my request for an interview. Please pray my son does not become bitter. Prison system deemed him such a low risk they put him on wardens squad allowing him beyond the barbed wire. Then they put him on the community squad to work at a food bank in a nearby city but covid hit. Even now they trust him enough to allow him into the guards living quarters unattended to work. I don’t think the PB even read the updated material in his parole packet. All I can say is “I trust you Jesus” and that’s only a whisper right now. Your recent post broke my heart. Praying for you, your family, & Jason
but so very thankful god has made streams in the desert for my son.
My daughter and I came to your speaking event a few years back in Pennsylvania. Huge blessing! The picture above is a testament to your families fortitude. May our Lord and Savior continue to lead guide and provide. We send wishes that your Christmas be filled with much love, joy and peace…
And most importantly good health in these crazy changing times.