On a bright, sunny Sunday, morning a team of three Prison Christian Ministries’ volunteers climbs into the van. Instead of going to their own churches today to be ministered to, they are going to one of the Province’s detention centers to minister to others. The 3 hour plus, drive is a great time to talk about ministry, and what we hear the Lord guiding us to share with the inmates.
One thing I will never forget about this “church behind bars” are the ominous sounds of the doors opening and closing. A solemn reminder of restricted freedom and a place of control. I am also amazed by the staff in these places. They perform their jobs well and are very helpful to us when we arrive. They keep order and safety their top priority. Without them we could not enter and do what we do. Once cleared and ushered into the institution, we wait for the arrival of our “church”. The door opens and in they walk, the object of our joy. These people have issues, and these issues have contributed to their residency. We see a familiar face and the greeting begins.
We wait upon the Lord for guidance as each visit is different, with it’s own needs. Need’s that sometimes are not all that obvious. There are no musicians with us today, so we are the band. Pastor Jim announces who we are, and we sing a few songs a capella. Good thing, Scripture says, “make a joyful noise unto the Lord”, and so we did.
Trudy opens with a word of testimony, and the ministry starts. It isn’t too long before the guys are listening intently to her story. The theme is about being welcomed back home. As she finishes her testimony, Veteran Pastor Jim, starts to ask a question, when one of the young men says, to him, “Tell us your story about your lost hearing aid that you told one other time!” So now the ministry takes further shape. This story was about the lost being found, and included Jim’s skillful story telling. He started with the story of Zachaeus the tax collector, and Jesus speaking directly to him telling Him he was going to his house. Amazing! Our ministry was being orchestrated for us!
Our theme this month is “Keeping Fresh”. One very prominent aspect of this theme is, observing the change in thoughts and conduct and keeping our relationship with Christ fresh. Jim shared that Jesus remarked to Zachaeus, ”this day has salvation come to your house”. Due to this, Zachaeus, the tax collector, had a change in heart and conduct, and said he would restore four fold all that he had stolen from the people.
That was my cue to draw attention to how to know, if and when, we are keeping fresh. Our old values will not be the same, there will be an emphasis on a new way of thinking. Once this was discussed, we lead them in the Christian sinner’s prayer.
We may never know what we accomplished on this day, or any other day for that matter. However God encourages us, today we saw that, over a month ago, Jim’s story that he told, had not gone unnoticed, and today it was used again only in another way, as God saw fit! We were so thankful for the leading of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the true wall walker! He alone is not confined by doors and walls, He can walk right through them, and in an appointed time bring the message home to those who so desperately need hope.
After we arrived back home, I thought I would go to my church evening service to support our young people tonight. We have a youth arts academy, they did their debut worship service. I couldn’t help but sit in awe of the contrast. Here were youth from all walks of life, playing instruments skillfully, and with joy. They were all over the platform that evening free to move and praise the Lord. As I had remarked in my message earlier that day, “Guys it isn’t how we start in life, it is how we finish”. Let this be a guide to keeping fresh in our experience whether we are restricted in movements or whether we are performing across a platform of fun loving, energetic worship members. We must ALL keep fresh in our experience with the Lord and never let it grow stale. Blessings…Bill