Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What is Prison Ministry?

Mom, the boys, and I with the founders of SACDEM.
They are blessings, I love them so much!

 "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "'Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?'" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing Him.

   But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, "'If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.'" Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
    At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, "'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?'" "'No one, sir.'" she said. "Then neither do I condemn you,'" Jesus declared. "'Go now and leave your life of sin.'""   ~John 8:3-11

   I wonder what Jesus was thinking as he knelt there, writing in the dirt? This passage is beautiful to me, because I know I have come to Jesus many times, asking Him to forgive me, even though I don't deserve it. This woman deserved to be stoned. She hurt her family, hurt her husband, and disobeyed the Law. She was supposed to be judged accordingly, and killed.  But Jesus demonstrates an important point many times have you judged someone harshly because of what he/she did? Do you think of people in prison and immidiately remember the mistakes you have made, acknowledging that what they did was no worse? Does your heart break for those in prison today who are there because of murder, theft, or drug running?

   When we were in Argentina we had the opportunity to do prison ministry. It was incredible.  Orphan ministry has always been my passion, and although the idea of prison ministry excited me, I didn't think of it the same way I think of orphan ministry- that it isn't an option. We are commanded to do it. When God tells us to take care of the orphans and widows, I can't imagine He is saying "If you feel called to, if you get around to it, go ahead and take care of the orphans." He is commanding us to do so. And I'm not going to take that lightly. I now feel the same way about prison ministry. I don't believe it's something to say "Oh, how cool that Julie does that! But, I'm just not called to it."
We are called to be like Jesus, and prison ministry seems to me to be the very embodiment of Christ.

I also believe that, as my mom would say, " a sin is a sin is a sin". My disobeying my parents this morning is no worse/better than Bob robbing that bank. We both sinned. Bob, however, must go to jail for his crime. So why don't I go to jail for mine? We all deserve to be in jail, guys. We are all ugly, sinning creatures.

So. Back to Prison Ministry.
  "Were you afraid?" is a question I've heard a few times. I wasn't at first. When we arrived and I actually realized "they're locking us in this gate, oh my goodness!" I did feel a stab of fear. But once we met the first woman that was completely gone. Actually, I forgot I was in a prison. I so thoroughly enjoyed loving on these precious people, I didn't want to leave!
  When Mason got up to preach, I wiped my eyes. The lady next to me (who had been crying during worship) leaned over and put her arm around me.
My heart, from that moment out I knew, was going to forever go out  to those in prison. An inmate in prison-- someone some would find frightening-- comforted me.
She comforted ME. Wow....I love that lady, and when I hugged her back, totally forgot that we were in prison.

The earrings the guard gave me. Please pray for her!
  When we painted the prison for those with infectious diseases, it was a similar story. The guards were precious, fixing us lunch and making sure we were comfortable. They were so grateful for us being there, and that gratitude touched my heart.

I complimented one of the guards on her earrings...and she gave them to me, as a way of saying thank you, she said. Here I am again, in a situation I would have never dreamed of...hugging this prison guard, filled with love for her, telling her I will be praying for her. And I have been, ever since. I love that guard, my friend at the prison, and the others we met so much that sometimes I just want to cry.
Neat, isn't it, how when we obey God He blesses us so abundantly? My new friendships are absolute blessings. And found in the most unlikely of places. 

 I challenge you all to serve outside of your comfort zone. You will be blessed, I promise.
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