With much anticipation in mid-January we packed up and headed for Alabama…time again for the ReNew Hope prison outreach with We Care. This has now been our fourth year, and every time we are so blessed to be a part of it.
On our way down we stopped to stay with some friends. The encouraging conversations and immense fun we had with them was so, well…encouraging and fun! We didn’t have the camera out during the action, but before we left we had some laughs while we did pictures “together…”
We arrived in Alabama Saturday night before things really got started…
Sunday is the day when all the hundreds of people involved in ReNew Hope come together for worship and orientation. There were some challenging and encouraging messages about how God will give us what we need to do His work, and how we have a treasure in our earthen vessels to share with others. One of the most powerful moments of the day was when a former inmate was giving his testimony, and towards the end he took a step back and said, “Look at me. I am an answer to your prayers.” He told us not to stop praying…God does answer prayer.It’s easy to think of people in groups and not so much about the value of each individual. But when someone is changed or impacted, think about how much it means to that one person. And each of us is that “one person” as well. Where would we be if someone didn’t reach out to us?
We went into one women’s and three men’s prisons. It was amazing to watch their response when we sang about our Savior being a chain breaker. They so were excited to hear that song! Many of them knew it and sang along with us, lots of them standing to their feet. They may be inside prison walls still, but so many of them are free on the inside. They know Jesus is a chain breaker.
One of the nights our evangelist was a man who had been in prison before…he had turned himself in after he became a Christian. His story is such an amazing reminder that no one is too far gone for God to redeem.
While we sing we get to see people’s faces as they take in the messages of the songs. During the invitation we get to watch people respond. It’s hard to describe. It’s so beautiful what God does. A roomful of men, half or more of them standing with their arms raised, flooding the aisles, not enough room for them all at the front…they want to become trees of righteousness. People kneeling before the Lord and giving whatever they need to to Him. It’s humbling to see.
Every morning the volunteers and music groups who were stationed in the area gathered for a time of worship and teaching before heading out for the day. One of the messages exhorted us that in this ministry of reconciliation God has given to His children, we can’t be counting a person’s sins against them.We are already looking forward to next year, Lord-willing! Thank you to everyone who prayed for us.
Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 NKJV