Monday, October 13, 2008

The Gift of Jail

I went to jail again last night. 6:00 pm on a Sunday night is not my point of highest energy. In fact, I almost always resist having to go, wondering why in the world I accepted this responsibility to lead a Bible study in the county jail? The air defines the word fetid, with overcrowded conditions and men shuffling around in their orange socks and flip-flops, wearing various uniforms to describe their situation (pre-trial or serving time). But soon their faces light up as they line up in front of us to be counted and herded into an outside portable classroom (outside, but still within the walls, fence and razor-wire). They set up the plastic chairs in a circle and we hand out the song sheets. They love having the choice of selecting the songs to sing. Again last night they chose "Amazing Grace" knowing we would need to sing it acapella. I got another lump in my throat as I saw one tattooed young man wipe away tears from his eyes as he sang another praise chorus.
The text was the same as at church in the morning: Exodus 32:1-14 on idolatry. They eagerly got into helping me set up the story by retelling their versions of the Exodus account and the implications of life under God and not under Pharaoh. We had 10 minutes before the guards came for us, so my partner and I split up and offered individual prayer for the guys. They absolutely line up to be prayed for. Wrapping my arms over their shoulders, we stand huddled together as I hear their prayer request and then pray. Some are prayers of praise for God's many blessings in jail, for freedom from addiction and a desire to stay focussed on Christ. Others pray for their families, girl friends or wives and children. Others pray for God's will as they go to court this week.
When we leave through the multiple gates, both my partner and I talk about what a privilege this is and how grateful we got to share in these men's lives once again.


At 3:12 PM , Blogger Dan said...

...when i was in prison, you visited me... we tried to get into county jail here but there is literally no room! so we are working with Child Protective Services, Parole dept. and county social services to provide a structured program that they can refer men to who end up on parole...we launch in January!

At 4:47 PM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Contact Sherwood Carthen about what his church is doing for released prisoners.


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