News

The Ripple Effect of Second Chances

by Sarah Cushing - Office of Marketing | Feb 05, 2016
William Reyes '97
A Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge created a ripple effect that changed hundreds of lives the day he gave a troubled young man a second chance. Facing a possible prison sentence, William Reyes '97 was instead offered an opportunity to change his life. Reyes took that second chance and dedicated himself to serving God and others until his death on Dec. 15, 2015, at age 56. 
 
As a born-again Christian, Reyes enrolled at the University of Valley Forge (UVF), then Valley Forge Christian College, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Bible. Professors remember Reyes' passion for life and compassion for others. Church Ministries Professor Malcolm Brubaker, Ph.D., remembers Reyes as "a good student eager to learn and active in ministry."
 
While Reyes' life changed drastically, he did not forget his time as an inmate. In prison, Reyes experienced firsthand the positive impact of Prison Fellowship, a Christian-based prison ministry. Prison Fellowship's vision is to restore prisoners and victims to the hope found in Jesus Christ. 

Prison Fellowship began in 1976 with Charles Colson, one of the men who worked with President Nixon during the Watergate Scandal and subsequently went to prison for his involvement. After his release, Colson ministered to prisoners and through his action, the Prison Fellowship ministry developed. Today, Prison Fellowship continues to nurture Christian communities inside American prisons, offers help to their families, and equips churches and communities to welcome prisoners back into society. It is active in over 380 prisons nationwide, with more than 25,000 prisoners in the fellowship classes and at least 11,000 volunteers.  

From Prison Fellowship stemmed the Angel Tree ministry in 1982. Angel Tree connects parents in prison with their families at Christmas. Angel Tree partners with churches and delivers gifts in the name of the prison-parent. In 2014, more than 330,000 children were connected with a church that delivered gifts and shared the Gospel. 

Reyes established an Angel Tree project at UVF and encouraged students to minister to inmates and their families. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1993, Reyes said about the ministry, "I know that what the kid is feeling in his heart is that feeling of intimacy and joy from a parent they can't see. That's the best gift a parent can give a child, even if they can't be there to give it in person."

After UVF, Reyes attended Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio and received a master's degree in clinical pastoring counseling. Reyes led congregations in Ohio, New York and California. He continued to preach on second chances. 
In June 2014, Reyes traveled from California to Philadelphia to persuade a judge to give a second chance to the son of friend. The judge was moved and granted the plea. 

In a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article published on Dec. 31, 2015, Reyes' family said of him, "William experienced the most joy in life conducting God's work. Whether it was mentoring youth, guiding people to recovery or counseling a fellow brother or sister in Christ, he made himself available to all he knew in need." They added, "His unwavering commitment to assist people and share the Lord's love and word resulted in countless transformed lives."

Even in his absence, the ripple effect continues on.