Tuesday, November 22, 2011
That One Small Sliver Of HOPE
Last night's church service at the jail was quite powerful and I could feel my emotions starting to leak out...literally in the form of tears. When you are sitting in jail doing time...it becomes pretty obvious that life isn't going your way. I suppose you can still be experiencing some form of denial but really, your ass is in jail, how can you rational that life is going OK?! It might not seem like it to the inmate but they have a real opportunity to make a change and never have to go back to their old way of life. I know from my own experience that even though you can't picture it and it seems impossible that things can indeed be different if you just SURRENDER, once and for all.
The Chaplain spoke about how he really cared for these men. It was an incredibly powerful and very moving talk, totally unplanned and straight from his heart. This past Saturday a 19 year old local woman was killed in a car accident...the driver of the car survived but is critical condition. The police have said initially that there was alcohol involved in the crash. It turns out that the young lady that was killed had just gotten out of the jail 4 days before she was killed. Chaplain Dave spoke about how you never know when it's your time....how true that is. Obviously the woman inmates are really upset about their former friend and roommate getting killed.
Dave told those men, who sat listening intently to him, no fidgeting, no horseplay at all...that we volunteers come there because we care about them and don't want to see them destroy themselves. That we love them and were sincere in our desire to be there for them and to share the love of our Creator with them in any way we can. I couldn't have agreed more. It was an extremely emotional talk, made more so by the fact that it was 3 days before Thanksgiving.
In the relatively short time I have been going there, I have noticed that there is a definite "vibe" to that place. Not that it is ever really a "happy" or "good" vibe in there but there are times when it is defiantly not a good time and then it can really feel heavy, gloomy, or hopeless. An example of a negative feeling day would be when a popular inmate is sentenced and they are taking him away in the morning to the penitentiary. Such was the case last night, an inmate was sentence to 5-10 years in prison and it gets every single one of those guys thinking about their time, their life and what faces them in the future. This guy was hanging in their with a pretty positive outlook...he asked for prayer for his kids who he has not seen in the better part of a year...it's rough stuff to hear, believe me...I'm a father and I cannot imagine what that feels like.
So the general mood was low, as a group they seemed to really been feeling a collective sense of sorrow...the story about the 19 year old former inmate really got to them. But it turns out that she found God while she did time. That bit of news had a profound effect on the inmates...you could see them perk up a bit...call it the power HOPE.
Later we had a 70 year old something Bluegrass Banjo Picking Preacher deliver the message and he talked about the Prodigal Son...about being lost, like a lost sheep. God...like a good Shepard goes to great lengths to "find" us "lost sheep', he never forgets us. He asked how many men felt "lost" and most of the room stood up.
It was a very moving and intense hour inside the jail last night...the most intense since I started volunteering there. Honestly...I really care about those men, I think about them all the time, their wives, their kids...their mum and dad's. It breaks my heart to hear them week in and week out pray for their kids and wives who are on their own with out them.
This is so different then what I thought being a Christian was all about. There is NO standing in judgment of others...no putting anybody down...no pretending your shit doesn't stink...nope it's about letting God's LOVE shine through...This is so REAL, so sincere...I feel so privileged to be a part of this ministry and to be able to give in any way I can a bit of HOPE to these guys. I know...I was down and out just wanting to die. I too have suffered at my own hand and I couldn't see a way out other then DEATH. Now I know the way out and I'm trying to the best of my ability to help lead these fellows there. They are hungry...no doubt about it for Salvation...I can see it and feel it.
I don't really need any more motivation to be there every week but it was special to witness and FEEL that power in the room last night. It is funny what just a small spark of HOPE can do. GOD light up that dark and forlorn place last night...
So My Dear Reader, as you get ready for Thanksgiving I ask if you can just take a moment and think and pray about these men and woman in jail today. They need hope and all the help we can muster...
(PHOTO: Kathy Tomson)