We were incredibly blessed to be here.
Last week we were involved with prison ministry for the first time as a family. The organization we served with is called We Care, and each year they organize a huge prison outreach in Alabama. With over 400 volunteers this year, 27 prisons were reached with the gospel of Jesus Christ during this four-day crusade called ReNew Hope. We heard about this outreach from our friends, the Wissmanns.
We arrived Saturday, registered, and enjoyed a great evening of fellowship with long-time-no-see friends, and also some new ones. Sunday morning found us bright and early at the worship service to start off the week. During the day we went through training, fellowshipped over lunch, watched our brothers play football, regrouped for another worship service, and later that night played volleyball.
Monday…it was finally time to enter the prison! The officers were very friendly, which definitely helped to put us at ease. Monday night we were in a women’s facility, a different one on Tuesday, and a mens facility on Thursday. Wednesday we were scheduled to go into a mens facility, but the service was canceled because the prison was on lock down. Each day volunteers would go into the prisons to witness, visit, and invite the inmates to come out to the service that night. The same volunteers would go into the same prison every day, but the music groups and speakers went to different prisons each night. Each speaker we had was a blessing to us. Being able to share Jesus in the prisons was another blessing.
A lot of prayer went into this week of ministry, and it was evident that God was working. Quick story: Photo ID is absolutely required in order to get into the prison. Well, Sunday evening we noticed that we couldn’t find my ID. We weren’t too concerned, since it shouldn’t be hard to find, right? Monday morning it became more concerning…and Abigail’s passport was nowhere to be found as well. We began to pray and asked others to pray. After the morning worship service, we went back to the hotel and tore our room apart, rather confused and concerned and hoping and praying they hadn’t been stolen. We had looked just about everywhere we could think of when Mom unzipped a pocket on a duffel bag and there they were! Thank you God! Thank you to all who prayed about this!
Being in the prisons was different. Different than normal life, definitely, but also different than how we probably imagined. The people in there have life. They are real people. Some are trusting Jesus. Some have joy, some have smiles, and they were so grateful that we came. They clapped to the music, smiled, cheered for Jonathan’s “I’ve Never Been This Homesick Before.” They “Amen!”ed the preachers, raised their hands to praise God, let tears flow from their eyes. During our team’s worship service on Tuesday morning we were challenged by the speaker, Troy Walker, who was saved in prison. He implored us on behalf of the prisoners, “I am worth it! I have a soul too!” Everyone needs the Savior… no matter who we are or what we’ve done.
We had such an amazing time with them. God was obviously working in people’s hearts as many came forward in response to God. And singing Amazing Grace with them…they sang it how I imagine the persecuted church would. At the top of their voices, from the bottom of their hearts. One song we did ends with the line “Lord I need You all the time.” The second women’s prison we were in they were following along with us on the song, and by the second chorus or so Dad pointed at them to sing that line. They almost just exploded into it! “LORD I NEED YOU ALL THE TIME!” We were also touched by things people said…one song we do asks, “Where will you be one hundred years from now?” Someone came up to us after and said, “I will see you one hundred years from now.” A lady stood up to give a testimony before one of the services, and she said, “I didn’t make parole, but God’s got me.” Pray for the saved in the prisons, for strength and joy. And pray for the ones whom God still has yet to get.
Thank you for standing with us in prayer. We saw God so some amazing things… and not just in the prison system, but also in our hearts. There is more to the trip but that will have to wait. We arrived home Saturday and are preparing to leave today for Canada for a week of ministry there. Maybe we’ll keep you posted, if time and internet permits…?
Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Psalm 103:1