by Sandy T
I felt God calling me to prison ministry two years ago. I started visiting Fort Saskatchewan prison one year ago……it took me a year to make sure I had heard right!
My thoughts going in were that it would be fine because I had a book to follow (a Bible study), and that I needed to go or else how would they hear about Him? It was only right that I share what Jesus had done for me!
I had never met any of the ladies that I was to go with before, but as we drove together, they prayed for our time together and told me to just let the Holy Spirit lead the way.
After a couple of weeks, I was amazed to discover that God was already there, working in the prison, and that actually I was not bringing Him in at all! Some inmates expressed how they felt that He had actually saved them by allowing them to be caught and imprisoned; otherwise, they would probably be dead right now. My heart was being touched and softened by the pain that these ladies were feeling…and excited by the hope that Jesus has given freely to us all. So my original reasons for going into the prison had already gone out the window.
The next week when we went in to visit in the jail, we were getting ready to split into two groups. The girls who had come before were asked to go with me. The new girls would go into my friend’s group. One inmate came over to me and, while pulling her chair into my circle, said, “Oh, no offense, but I really love being with the other lady because I have learned so much from her. I guess this will be fine, though – change is always good.” I just had to laugh at myself and how I had once again just had to be reminded that God was working here through us, with us, and also without us.
Before we begin our discussion each visit, we start out with a DVD entitled Woman at the Well. It is a modern-day version of the Bible story from John 4 about the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at the well. The ladies seem to always relate really well with this story, and I am always fired up by it!
One day after playing it, I was so inspired that when we sat down in our circle, I said to them something along the lines of, “This woman met someone who loved her like she had never felt loved before. He knew everything she had ever done, stuff that people around her didn’t know. That is why we are here. We feel the same way as she did. We want to run back to town and tell people our stories. They are all different, but they are all connected with the one true God. We can’t keep it to ourselves – it wouldn’t be right!”
We had handed out sticky name tags that day. As I looked across the circle, a lady who had written the name “Dangerous” on her name tag (who honestly might have scared me if I had met her on the street) asked me, “So what are your stories?”
I could feel my excitement that I had experienced moments earlier deflate somewhat.
So I start telling them how I had two kids, a husband, a home, and how I was searching…. I could hear my voice going on and on, but in my head I was thinking, “Oh my heck, how is she ever going to relate to me?!”
I think I was probably looking around the room or at the floor most of the time. But when my eyes finally went back to “Dangerous”, she had tears falling down her cheeks.
When I was done, my teammates shared their stories of God’s saving grace in their own lives. To my relief, they seemed more relatable than I had!
Interestingly enough, though, something happened on that day that I will never forget. About halfway through our stories, “Dangerous” quietly took off her name tag and stuck it inside the book we had given her when she had come in.
That week I asked God why He would bring me and my story to that place. Did I fit?
His response since then has been to show me since that His saving me was even more of a miracle than I had already known it was. I had not been in a desperate situation when I met Him. I had what most people would consider a successful marriage and family life. Yes, I had smoked pot when I was younger, had drunk at parties and had lived with more than one man – but by worldly standards, that was all normal stuff. I had pulled myself in my own strength away from those things, and now was leading what could be considered a moral and normal family life.
But here is the miracle part – I had been completely self-sufficient, had it all…..and He met me right there!!!!!! I still needed Him as much and as desperately as anyone. He reminded me that my story of salvation was not about me – it was about HIM.
Some verses that God has put on my heart as I prepared to share what He is teaching me are: Acts 26:22, Luke 10:2, Matthew 25:35, 1 Corinthians 2:3-5, and Luke 4:18,19.
I recently was asked to write something for a pamphlet for the prison ministry, and I will share it here, as I believe that what He gave me to say is from His heart. It looked like this:
Jesus has a burden on His heart for the poor and the lost. By sharing in that, I am starting to experience one as well for the saved. We are not seeing all He has for us here on earth if we don’t step out in faith and do as He commanded. You don’t need to feel prepared; He will show up when we trust Him and step out to love His people.”