Maybe that is why I am so drawn to prison ministry. I have met folks of many cultures and life experiences, disabled folks, younger folks to older folks, professional folks to marginalized folks, all seeking to bring light to a lonely and sorrow-filled place. We set aside our doctrinal minutiae, concentrating on offering the Love of God, the forgiveness paid in full by Jesus, an introduction to the comforts of the Spirit of God, and the hope of reconciliation and redemption.
Of course, we would all like to offer all that to anyone and everyone. But the state of the world is that most folks are in a tornado of activities that keep their focus on the survival of themselves and their own nearest and dearest with little time or patience for someone suggesting a "better way." It is especially hard for those who see themselves as successful in worldly ways, with homes to maintain, neighbors to impress and careers to tend.
But for folks whose lives have spun wholly out of control whether it be driven by materialism, a too available spectrum of drugs, jealousy, fear, anger, rage or foolishness, a good percentage have figured out in the school of hard knocks that the way they have been living is not working. For some with disinterested, dangerous or damaged upbringings there is often very little basic knowledge of what it means to follow Christ. For those raised in a church environment, and they are large in number, the task of teaching hope can be even more daunting because of shame and a lack of understanding of what forgiveness is and how it works. For most folks in jails and prison, they have a minimal capacity to envision a better life, a life of purpose and hope. To such as these we have been called to bring light and truth and a hope for tomorrow and for their children and grandchildren.
So I am particularly grateful for the diversity of the prison ministry folks who only see the differences in the workers and the prison and jail population and the jail administration and staff with the same appreciation we experience in a garden filled with varying colors, styles and times of blooming; where everyone contributes and everyone has needs to be met. It is rocky soil but the Spirit of God works wonders in all of us, wherever we sleep at night.
O God of Hope and Light, thank you for the men and women who are Your hands and feet behind prison walls. Protect them from the power of the Evil One, send your Spirit that they might grow in maturity and discernment and give them eyes and ears eager for opportunities to share Your Good News. AMEN
In the same way, we are many people, but in Christ we are all one body. We are the parts of that body, and each part belongs to all the others. Romans 12:5