Life-Changing Experience In Prison

AlwaysHisGlory Admin

Posted on May 17 2019

Life-Changing Experience In Prison

Written by: Kelly Gardner

For some people, going into prison for ministry seems scary and daunting. For me, it has been a powerful and life-changing experience. It has been my great joy to be so close to seeing the power of God in action.

When I first arrived, it was an intimidating scene. The prison is surrounded by fences lined with various levels barbed wire. The gatehouse’s heavy metal door slams shut. A prison official escorts you through a series of gates, each being unlocked and then locked again behind you.

Upon entering the community room, I was greeted warmly by smiling faces full of joy. They were all dressed alike in purple prison uniforms. I hardly noticed how they were dressed because they got right to work alongside the volunteers. Our Kairos team started the weekend by unloading our trailer and setting up tables and chairs. We were joined by “angels,” prison residents that have been through the Kairos program previously and now come back to help with various jobs to support the team from the outside. After a few hours of working together to set up the room, it’s hard to tell the outside team from the prison residents. Looking around the room, I saw ladies laughing together, complimenting each other on hairdos or nail polish, and praying together for the work of the weekend. It doesn’t take long to realize that these women, some who live on the inside and some who live on the outside, have a lot in common.

Our team welcomed 42 residents to take part in the Kairos weekend. They came in not knowing what to expect. Most had heard there would be good food. They came in feeling suspicious, heavy, doubtful, unworthy, unloved, and not expecting anything. The weekend did consist of eating good food together (including way too much chocolate cake!), but also many other elements that showed them they were loved by us as representatives of God, their heavenly Father.

These women are constantly reminded of their sin. It is ever before them in the fences and wire that frame their every view of the outside world, in the way their choices are made for them about what to wear and when to eat, and the way they are ordered and counted around the clock daily. They are reminded of the consequence of their sin daily, in an inescapable way. The world has told them they are filthy, unworthy, despicable, forgotten, unlovable. Even for some prison residents who have grown up in church, know scripture, and have heard of Jesus’ love, they feel it is not for them and they are undeserving. They know Jesus saves, but not people who have done what they’ve done. They know Jesus is love, but they don’t feel loved. They know Jesus says he will not abandon or forsake them, but they feel alone and forgotten.

Then they meet these ladies that have come to prison to minister to them. They see the names of people who are praying for them. They receive handwritten letters addressed to them with words of hope and scriptures of encouragement. They eat chocolate cake. They hear about how they can make good choices. They learn about forgiveness. They learn about having a friendship with God. They learn about Christian community. And then God breaks through with his promises. They are presented with the truth that even while they were enemies of God and in spite of their sin, he chose to rescue them. God’s promises for them are an overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love. They begin to see that they are chosen and dearly loved.

The best part about prison ministry is seeing the transformation in women who have experienced the overwhelming love of God. Those of us in the world outside the prison often think we’re pretty good people. We fall into thinking our sin isn’t really that bad. Women in prison know their sin is bad. It’s how they ended up where they are. But for them, they are given hope of a new life in Christ. A new life is something they desperately desire. Imagine worshipping in a room with women from the outside, women who live inside the prison, guards and officials, all declaring “I am who You say I am! I am a child of God.” Imagine women who days before had no hope, now singing and declaring, “Who the Son sets free, oh is free indeed!” And imagine women who had been tough because they felt it was their key to survival, now hugging their new “family” and declaring, “We’re going to make some changes around here!”

We come to minister in prison as part of a Kairos team not to bring Jesus to the women in prison; He’s already there. He has not left or forsaken them, though the world would have them believe that He has. We come to be His hands and feet. We come to remind them that God’s promises are true and available for anyone who wants to accept them. And as is the case with many types of ministry, we leave feeling like we have received more of a blessing than we’ve left behind. Thank you, Lord, for allowing me to be a witness to the power of your Holy Spirit doing what only You can do, loving people and redeeming lives.

Who am I that the highest King would welcome me?
I was lost but he brought me in.
Oh, his love for me. Oh, his love for me.
Who the Son sets free, oh is free indeed.
I’m a child of God, yes, I am.

Free at last, he has ransomed me. His grace runs deep.
While I was a slave to sin, Jesus died for me.
Yes, he died for me.
Who the Son sets free, oh is free indeed.
I’m a child of God, yes, I am.

In my Father’s house there’s a place for me.
I’m a child of God, yes, I am.
I am chosen, not forsaken, I am who you say I am.
You are for me, not against me, I am who you say I am.
(Who You Say I Am, by Hillsong Worship)

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