Many of you were praying for us at the end of January as we participated in a prison outreach in Alabama. Thank you so much! Last year was our first time going into prisons…and we couldn’t wait to go back. We Care prison ministry works with inmates year-round and in January they have the ReNew Hope crusade. It’s humbling to be able to be a part of it.
Sunday morning all the volunteers, musicians, and anyone else involved gathered for worship, teaching, and required training. A winter storm was working its way around the southeast and a number of volunteers were not able to be there this year, but it was still neat to see the number of people who came. (One of our answers to prayer was safety on the way down. Some of the roads were icy from the storm.)
We were stationed for a few nights in Atmore where the We Care headquarters is, so meals were shared there by all the volunteers assigned to the area. It provided good fellowship and time to exchange reports of how the services went in different prisons.
We sang at three men’s prison and one women’s. The first night started off with rejoicing–the chaplain stood at the front and greeted the inmates with, “This is the day that the Lord has made!” They clapped and cheered. Yes, even in prison there is joy and hope when people have Jesus. Pray for those on the inside.
The first night Dad realized shortly before we were supposed to leave for the prison that we needed to get something at the store. On his way to the van he twisted his ankle quite badly, and there was no time to do anything about it…so he went to the store and when he got back we went to the prison. His ankle and foot proceeded to swell and turn purple. By God’s grace he was able to do the walking and standing he needed to do. To add to the story, the hotel we were in for a few nights had no elevator so he had to climb several flights of stairs multiple times each day. The bright side of the no-elevator situations was rest of us got a good, much-needed workout carrying all our instruments and equipment up and down the stairs (with, of course, the purpose of going to the prisons or settling in the hotel for the night).
When we got home a couple weeks later, Dad went in for an X-ray…and it turned out he broke his ankle. But, as we saw, God gives strength in time of need.
Each night we saw God moving in people’s hearts as they heard songs of hope, love and grace. The speakers gave powerful messages, two of them telling their personal testimonies…how they had been behind bars before and how receiving Jesus has changed their lives forever. Many of the inmates responded each night to the invitations that were given.
The last night was one of those testimony messages. Listening to this man’s story and seeing what he is like today is a powerful demonstration of the grace of God. But really, we all are in need of grace and forgiveness. There is nothing greater than grace… and who of us doesn’t need God’s grace?
At the end of sharing his story and explaining the gospel, he asked for a show of hands for those who wanted to receive Jesus. Understand, this was at a work release facility, minimum security, and these men were close to getting out of prison. It probably wasn’t rock bottom for them anymore. But in that small chapel, the hands went up. They wanted Jesus.
God was moving that week all over the state of Alabama. Many, many prisons were covered. We could see Him at work in different ways…the tears that flowed, the heads bowed and hands lifted in worship, the arms of a young inmate around the shoulders of two young volunteers as they prayed. People realizing their need for Jesus.
That makes everything worth it.
Thanks to We Care for some of the photos posted here.