After Pickle Lake we were home for three nights and then hit the road again, but this time headed for warmer climate.
The first part of our trip was for prison ministry with We Care’s ReNew Hope crusade in Alabama. We love being able to be a part of this outreach which covers about 25 prisons in the state! This was our third year (wow, already?) and each time we have been so blessed.
ReNew Hope is a 5-day event which kicks off with a full Sunday of worship, orientation, and fellowship before everyone is deployed to their respective cities for prison ministry.
It’s hard to believe how many prisons there are. We stayed in Birmingham for the week and there are six prisons within driving distance in just that one area. Prison ministry has really made us aware of these places as we are traveling throughout the country. They are so needy for the gospel.
Instead of sharing “prison moments” like I did regarding the Florida prisons, there are some stories to tell that clearly reflect God’s hand.
On Sunday at the orientation, one of the group leaders for a women’s prison (which we had been to the first year) came to us and told us about an inmate we’ll call Katie. Katie had seen us two years ago in a prison in Montgomery, and she remembered Jonathan singing “I’ve Never Been This Homesick Before” and apparently it was special to her. Sharon, the group leader, had been praying that our family would be able to come to that prison again so that Katie could see us. Then the schedule came out, and our family would be singing only in the Birmingham area prisons this year. But God had plans…and about a week before the ReNew Hope crusade, Katie was transferred to a prison in Birmingham which we were singing at! We were at this prison last year, and it was our only “repeat prison” ever…out of all the prisons we could have gone to, God had us go to this one. Since Sharon had described Katie to us, we kept an eye out and there she was, sitting on the front row. And without actually telling her this, we sang that song just for her.
One of our most memorable places to minister was at a women’s residential treatment and recovery center. This was a Christian facility and so many of the ladies came with Bibles. We’re guessing there were about 200 who came out to the mandatory event. The message was on the simple truth that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. At the end, some chose to humble themselves before the Lord. We noticed some tears left behind where someone had been kneeling. A broken and contrite heart the Lord will not despise.
The last day we were supposed to go into a minimum security prison, but we noticed on the schedule that it said “19+” which means that only people nineteen years and older can go in. This was a bit odd since our whole family had been able to enter a maximum security facility. This was a HUGE dilemma for us, since the two people in our family that would not qualify are irreplaceable band members. We made inquiry about an exception, and one of the chaplains began to pursue it. We were told it wasn’t likely. The day before we were to go in, another family with minors was not allowed to bring them in. The morning we were to depart for the prison, it looked like it was a closed door and began to accept the fact the boys were going to have to stay behind. However, the chaplain continued making phone calls, and then there appeared to be a glimmer of hope. We were encouraged to all head to prison. Then, on the way there Dad got a phone call saying that we could bring the boys in. Praise God! It was a longer check-in process at that prison, and we were watching the clock run down, knowing that our set-up time was slipping away and our gear hadn’t been looked through yet. Finally, everyone had cleared to go in. After a very speedy setup, we were ready to go on time. It was a good service…and we even ended up singing a song for a guard on our way out of the prison.
We could tell more stories… it was amazing to see and hear so many answers to prayer throughout the week. Hearts were being touched each day in the prisons. We serve a God who is not limited by anyone.
Maybe you are interested in ministering in the Alabama prisons. If so, We Care offers different opportunities to serve. Prisons are dark places that need Jesus just like every other place in the world. He was the one who said, I was in prison and you came to Me. …Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me. (Matthew 25:36, 40)