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I first thought of and was called to the prison ministry while I was having my quiet time one morning about a year and a half ago. I had never thought of it before, but the Holy Spirit inspired me to do this while I was quiet and open to listen. I don't know why I was inspired or asked to do this but God knows who is prepared for and has the desire to help with each of his missions.
I did not think of this again until each family of our church was asked in what ministry they could help with their time and energy. When I said that I thought I was supposed to help with the jail ministry, I was told that Sr. Sally was moving to Nashville and she was the one who visited the men in Desoto County Jail. When I talked to Sr. Sally about this, she said that she had been praying for someone to take her place .
Sr. Sally really cared about the inmates and thought they needed positive influences and needed to know that God loved them. I went with her several times and found out that she took them magazines, cards and religious materials. She would have a short devotional and pray with them and for them. Most of these men seem to really appreciate what she was doing, and several would ask about her after she left for Nashville.
When I started visiting them by myself, I sometimes felt inadequate and I didn't think I inspired anyone. Other times I could tell they really needed to hear what I was saying and wanted me to pray for them. I was really emotionaly moved once when an inmate, about thirty to thirty-five years old, asked me to pray for him because he was given about thirty years for a drug offense. He was really shaken and said he would really miss his five children. He knew he made a mistake and said that he cried every night and everytime he talked to his family. While he was suffering the consequences of his actions, I still think I was supposed to be there for him and pray for him. How many of us can say that we never made a mistake that later we really regretted?
One inmate told me that he was in jail because his ex-wife, along with her father, had made it look like he was involved in something wrong, that he knew nothing about. I did not know if he was telling the truth or not, but when I listened to him I could hear the pain in his voice as he told me how much he missed two small boys. I prayed with him and asked God to bring the truth out in this situation. I told him it would help to pray for the truth to come out and not focus on his anger towards his wife. He was out about three weeks after he arrived. He told me this happened because the truth prevailed.
One inmate was hurt because his brother died and he would not be able to attend the funeral. I thought a minute and tried to decide what I should say. I think it helped him when I told him that at the time of the funeral he could try to find a private place to pray for his brother and his family and be there in spirit. My faith told me that his brother would know that he was thinking of him. I don't know for sure but I believe this gave him some peace.
I have been working the jail ministry since June of 1998, and it has made me realize just how blessed I am. A few months ago another lady from my church ,named Chris Jones, joined me in this ministry. She has done a great job and really cares about the inmates. She organized a prayer service that we have every other Wednesday night. She says that she is involved in this work to give back to the church and community because she has been so blessed.
Most of the inmates are there because of alcohol and drug related problems. While they are responsible for their actions, we need to pray for them to be released from their addictions. We need to pray that they learn to fill the void , that many say they have , with the understanding that God loves them and that the Holy Spirit can fill them with more pleasure than any alcohol or drug can.
While we can sincerely say that most of the men and women in prison need conversion, if we are honest, we will realize that we also still need healing and conversion. Maybe we have not murdered, bought or sold drugs or stolen anything, but do we need a conversion of being indifferent, materialistic and selfish.
Having a family member in jail can happen to any family. With the influence of drugs and alcohol in our society, many good families are finding themselves dealing with a son, brother, husband and, yes, sisters, daughters, and mothers who have been incarcerated.
-- by Sandra Spence
E-mail comments to the author at: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article is © Copyright 2001 by Sandra Spence