I have the privilege of serving women prisoners. Our entire team is richly blessed by these women! I feel we receive more benefit than they from our time together!
They have invited us into the prison to share the gospel with them, and there is abundant fruit there. So many women want to participate in our Christian 12-step program that the waiting list is one to two years long!
The laborers are few, but the harvest is so plentiful!
How often do believers get an invitation and a wide open door like this? We are privileged to see fruit for our labors in the lives of the women.
Not only are we blessed by seeing how God has worked the circumstances of their lives, so they could find him, but we are also uplifted by their stories of transformation. Our relationships with them have a deep honesty and transparency that is often lacking outside the walls. They are our sisters.
In a Christian world where we tend to take one another’s gifts and service for granted, these women view our time with them as a gift. While most of the time our offerings are unnoticed by anyone but God, these women are grateful. They know our love is a gift from God, and they vocalize their thanks. That’s a rarity in our service outside the wall.
But the most significant blessing has been the inner transformation in my own life. What I used to know academically, I now grow to know more deeply each time I go in:
But for the grace of God, I could be one of them. They are me. I am them.
The stories of their lives reveal circumstances entirely outside their control. Their parents and larger family, sexual assault, traumatic-stress-induced mental illness, harmful and abusive relationships – these are all part of the picture that brought them to prison.
If I had lived through what most of them have experienced, I would have reacted the same. I would be in prison, too. So would you.
The stories of their young lives and circumstances always break my heart. I look at my own brokenness, and I know that just the tiniest waver or change in one direction or the other, and I would be them. It’s true for me, and it’s true for you.
In our comfortable lives, we often forget this truth.
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10).
We sin every day. We are capable of any atrocity. Given the same circumstances that shape prison-worthy sins, we would likely sin. Our shiny Christian purity is a gift from God, not of ourselves, lest any of us should boast. We truly are God’s handiwork, new creations. Our holiness is not of ourselves at all.
God works the same transformation in them. It’s beautiful to behold!
They become kindred spirits, saintly sisters, no matter what brought them to prison.
Look at the world around us.
What we see are people just like us, people who have lived through life-shaping events that have molded them. No matter their lifestyle or choices, let’s show them the mercy and grace of the Lord, just as he has shown it to us.
Our kindness may result in another brother or sister meeting Jesus.