Saturday, October 06, 2012

Reflections from Prison

So, last weekend I went to prison for Kairos again.  It's one of my favorite places in the world to be! But it's not always easy.  It requires a lot - Department of Corrections trainings, 32-36 hours of team training, and sacrifices in time, energy, and finances. I used to think when I became a mom, I would not be involved in this ministry anymore.  And my involvement has been less consistent - take a couple years off, work a weekend, take a couple more years off, step slowly back into the ministry, and then..find myself very involved in leadership roles.  And I'm so grateful God has provided a way for me to continue to be involved. It takes some creative planning to make it work along with my kids' crazy schedules too..but after trying it a couple times, I'm convinced that my involvement in Kairos benefits my kids as well.  They have "caught" a bit of my passion.  They pray "for the ladies in prison" regularly. They help make placemats and bake cookies to take in.  They have at times helped me sort or inventory supplies.  Their hearts are growing.  They also delight in telling their friends and teachers "My mom is in prison now!"..but well, they might as well have some fun with it! :)

I try to put my finger on exactly why this ministry has grabbed my heart so much. It sure would make my life a little easier if a little less-intense ministry was my passion. :) Before I got involved, prison ministry is probably the least likely place I'd have seen myself.  Work with kids? Yeah I can do that. Go on a mission trip? Yeah, I can see that.  Feed the Hungry? Just give me the opportunity and I'm there. Spend 4 days with women in a maximum security prison..holding their hands, praying and worshiping with them, listening to their stories, sharing my heart with them?  No thanks..not for me.  And yet,  I can walk down the halls of the prison, hear the  metal gates "clang" (and they do "clang" just like you imagine), and not feel uneasy at all. And when I am in that prison chapel, I feel very comfortable and at home. I have talked and shared and prayed and worshipped with the woman who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the woman who was in over her head with drugs, and with the woman whose crime has given her a life without parole sentence. And so many more.  When I meet a woman there, I don't even wonder "why are you here?" anymore.  Instead I wonder "Where is God's grace going to take you now?".  I have seen walls fall and lives rebuilt.  I have seen fogiveness given and accepted. I have seen hearts healed and compassion grow.  And I have experienced myself and other team members "getting it right" by saying the right thing at the right time. And I have experienced myself and other team members trying, but stumbling over words, messing up, and saying the wrong thing. And then I've seen God step in and make it right anyway. And while God has been busy working in the ladies' lives of that prison, He's been working in ours at the same time. I mean, I've said and done things in that prison I never thought I could do. I've been awed and humbled by His greatness.  Even with our "team", I've had to learn lessons of love, humility, and forgiveness.  I've experienced a boldness in faith and God has grown and stretched me.  My challenge is not to love my sisters-in-white (known as "inmates" to most) inside those prison walls. No, that's easy for me. My challenge is to stay connected to Jesus and love those in my world *outside* the prison carry the lessons learned inside to those I come in contact with every day. My challenge is to trust God's work in my everyday life as much as I trust His work inside the prison, to love and live as freely in my every day world as I do inside the prison.  Who would have thought I'd learn more about freedom inside a maximum security prison than anywhere else? But I have. And that's God. I hope and pray I have opportunities to continue to be involved in this ministry. God has put a passion deep inside my heart for these often forgotten women. At the same time, I pray I remember the lessons I've learned inside, even if the doors should one day close or if God leads in a different direction.