I frequent there... about once a month. Fortunately, after being there for about an hour, I get to walk right back out and go on with my life.
But each time I go, I learn something new. My perspective changes just a little. My mind is renewed. I am more thankful, and my picture of life is more clear.
To offer just a small amount of background, about 2 years ago, my heart was moved to become involved with the jail ministry in our church. I have always had a desire to touch those who are in broken circumstances, and the Lord showed me a way to do it. I knew up front that this would be a stretching experience. And it is. But each time I am stretched, I learn more about God, about His character, about trusting, and about His love.
When I am scheduled, I prepare a lesson and go early on Sunday mornings, ready to meet whoever wants to attend church. There can be anywhere from 1 group of 2 ladies to 2 groups of 6 ladies. We pray together, we read the Bible together, we discuss, and we share prayer requests. An older lady in our church usually accompanies me, and I love her support and wisdom.
I have heard so many stories. I have seen women moved to tears, at their most broken state of addiction. I have seen mothers locked away for months without their children, and daughters spending weeks away from their families. I have seen the emptiness of alcoholism and drug abuse. I have seen ladies who reach out with desperate trust in God as their court dates approach, unaware of the outcome and its consequences.
Today, for the very first time, I visited a girl in solitary confinement. It was shocking. She was locked away in a small room with a bed and a toilet. When we arrived, she was just waking up, and her eyes were foggy with sleep. Her face was covered in acne, and her hair a tousled mess. Depression was in the air.
The door separated us from her. We could only see her through a tiny panel of window, and we spoke through a small open slit. We talked to her for a few minutes and then we said a prayer with her.
She had been there for 3 months for a minor infraction.
My heart ached for her.
"Anytime you get low this week," my cohort said, "Just remember that we are praying for you."
The power of prayer has never been so meaningful to me. I know I will not forget to pray for her.
Then we left.
As we walked out, out into daylight, out into freedom, I said, "It makes me thankful..."
She nodded, agreeing, "Thankful for my upbringing," I finished.
"Thankful for parents and a family and a church that taught you the Truth," she added.
"Exactly. Because if I didn't have that, who's to say I wouldn't be where they are?"
I thought more about it on the way home.
I thought about why God chose for some of us to grow up in a loving, Christian environment, and why some of us grew up in a dysfunctional family with widespread sin. Having been handed such a wonderful example, I am, of course, responsible for a lot more.
But what of those who do only what they know... and what they know is drinking, drugs, and sex?
The more I visit jail, the more I see it as a haven of rest-- a second chance. God's way of taking these women and stopping them in their tracks and turning them toward the Light.
And their brokenness, their lessons learned, their ability to look at life with a renewed hope does more for me than they will ever know.
My conclusion was that while I may have had the better upbringing... without them and their steps of faith up out of the pit... we wouldn't have the chance to see God's glory at its best.
The more life I live, the more I understand God's purpose behind broken events-- a sudden death, a terminal illness, an orphan child, a jailed victim... the things of life we, as humans, have such a hard time "understanding." Whether one is put into such a circumstance in innocence or due to consequences, it is in and through those situations that God is most glorified and people are touched. And what is life, if God is not glorified?
Love you all!