For the last year I have had the extreme privilege of volunteering with an organization called Ladies of Grace. This ministry is partially supported by Central, and is a mentoring discipleship program for inmates at our local correctional facility. Every Monday night the group meets with a different teacher to unpack God’s truth and what it really means to walk with Him. The mission is to help women make permanent behavioral change, but most importantly, build a firm biblical foundation.
Walking into that jail has completely wrecked my heart. Knowing these women has changed me in deep, forever ways.
I wish so badly that I could express what God is doing in the cold basement of the jail, but unfortunately there are no words. However, serving the hurting in our community has taught me some important things.
1. The Power of Prison
I’ve discovered that behind the bars of a literal prison is an excellent place to discover the actual prison we’re all living in. Christ died on the cross to set us free, yet we all allow ourselves to live in some form of bondage. We’re held captive by our sin, our shame, our pride etc. and we continually reject the freedom bought for us on the cross.
Subconsciously I walked into that jail for the first time thinking I was better than these women, but I walked out of those doors knowing that no, I’m not better. I am a sinner just like them, their sin just looks different from mine. I’m in a prison all of my own and it keeps me discontent, afraid and always seeking more.
2. The Power of the Holy Spirit
My love for these women has been strong from our very first conversation. On the surface I don’t have a lot in common with them. In fact, I don’t event know most of their first names. But I have a love for them that is so deep I would do anything in my power for them. That type of love can only be explained by the Holy Spirit.
When we get out of our comfort zones and serve people, we allow God to love through us. That love has the power to change people’s hearts, giving them a freedom and joy they’ve never experienced. I’m watching it happen in yellow jumpsuits behind cold, concrete walls.
3. The Power of Vulnerability
I think many of us are way too afraid of being vulnerable. I know I am. It’s as if once the vulnerable places in our soul are exposed the weight of shame will become unbearable. So what do we do? We build walls around our hearts and our lives never letting anyone see the real hurt inside. What I’ve learned from these women is that vulnerability doesn’t create or expose shame, it unleashes it. Vulnerability brings light to dark corners.
4. The Power of Light
Satan loves the darkness. It’s where our sin and our shame grow stronger. Sadly, we spend too much time thinking we like the darkness too. It feels safe, comfortable, we think we can control it. Recently, while singing an off-tune version of Amazing Grace I saw the prison be a place full of light. It was a place of light because true, real freedom was being discovered. I watched women step into the light and share their messy places with Jesus and those around them.
They’re finding true healing.
I hope you never have to go to prison, at least not in the literal sense. Most likely you won’t. But don’t let that fool you into believing that you don’t experience you’re own form of prison. We all do. The good news is that we serve a powerful God. He’s already offered you freedom, you just have to accept it.
Prison ministry may not be where God is calling you, but He is asking you to serve your community and love the hurting around you. I urge you to find a place to plug-in. Central supports so many wonderful and impactful ministries, I’m sure we can help you find a place. It will not only help others, but it will allow God to grow your heart and change your perspective in huge ways.
Central Member & Guest Blogger