Five authors from the Writers Connection visit prisoners at the state penitentiary in Salem, and we share essays about grace. (Click here to view Part 1.) Afterwards, we mingle with the inmates. I meet Calvin and Ron, and ask them, “How is God using incarceration to mature you?”
Calvin says he’s learning that every decision counts. If life is a book, he says, he’s living chapter six of a twelve-chapter story. Every day, he gets to choose his attitude and actions. He prays the prayer of Jabez. He’s been journaling for three days. He says the Lord’s opening his spiritual eyes to see His hand and a God-enlarged “territory” of people to interact with. In fact, as he grows, he wants to pastor the other prisoners with his gifts of discernment and exhortation.
Then I chat with Ron. He says that years ago, when two men held him at gunpoint, he shot and killed them. For the first fifteen years of his sentence, he was furious with God, because he lost his freedom for an act of self-defense. Then, a year ago, his sister, who visits him often, told him she was healed of an illness at a church service. Ron’s spirit lifted and he returned to Christ. He’s now president of the Toastmasters club at the prison, actively encouraging other inmates.
I chat with several prisoners. They talk. I listen.
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we . . . see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Jesus, in Matt. 25: 37-40)
Friend, reaching out to those who are stuck in anger, fear, or rejection is a lot like visiting prisoners in that jail. How do we interact with them? Here are three action points:
- To bring hurting people the strength and power of Christ, sometimes we need to go outside our routines and join them. Instead of waiting for them to come to our churches, social clubs, or athletic events, we need to step onto their turf and meet them where they’re at.
- When we hang out with those who want to connect with the Holy Spirit, our role is to listen. They get healed as they tell their stories. Calvin and Ron were visibly encouraged as they shared how their leadership skills are expanding. They were even more uplifted when I told them I’d include them in this blog.
- Every day, our Heavenly Father gives us a chance to increase our sphere of influence as we speak to people about His goodness. The lonely. The scared. The outcast. What does God want us to speak into them? Well-placed words of encouragement and hope.
Friend, have you been inside a prison? What was it like? When you share the good news of Christ, how does it mature you?