This Christmas break I was honored to go with LionzBride Ministry to visit a women’s prison unit in Texas City, Texas. LionzBride Ministry packaged up soap, deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo and candy in a Christmas bag for all the prisoners at this unit. Our job was to pass out the bags to the ladies and then invite them to come back to a service at the chapel that evening.
Of course, I didn’t really think too much ahead of time what to expect or what it would be like to go and minister in prison. I knew that I would have to share a scripture or a word at some point at the service. I really don’t enjoy speaking in front of groups of people but I knew that God would give me the words. I thought I could avoid sharing by not volunteering and maybe hiding behind a large object.
Honestly, I didn’t have any words to share. I have never been in their shoes or didn’t know how I could bring them any kind of meaningful message. Hope was the word I wanted to leave with them. I wasn’t sure how I could deliver that message because I was never in prison and I haven’t faced their specific challenges. I put it out of my mind.
I didn’t have a chance to think about myself from the moment I stepped passed the last barred gate. There wasn’t any time. We quickly formed an assembly line to put the bag of goodies together with some residents who helped us. They were all wearing white pants and white shirts. All of the ladies looking the same… clean, crisp, sharp and smiling. I figured these ladies were the cream of the crop. They must have earned their way into helping at the chapel.
I didn’t know a thing about prison working or privileges or chapel services. All I know is I was told they are NOT allowed to hug anyone or be hugged on a normal day. Today was different. They had permission to hug and be hugged. I positioned myself at the exit door to give the “Merry Christmas God Bless You” hard squeezed hug. I figured it might as well be a good one since hugs were outlawed all the other days.
These ladies were so grateful for the gifts and the hugs. I was told they had not had shampoo for a couple of months. This was a sweet smelling gift of gold in these bags and they were happy to receive it.
Each hug brought me more love and tears. It was as if I was the one who was getting ministered to not them. I was overwhelmed with love and affection for these beautiful ladies. Each one different walking by me. Some were tall, short, old, young and pregnant. Each lady containing their own stories of hardships. They were buried deep down beneath their smiles and hugs of gratitude. At this point I stopped seeing them as prisoners. They were mom’s, sisters, grandmothers, and daughters. I met with some and talked and heard their stories. They were beautiful and lovely.
Church service started and many ladies came back. In fact the whole room was filled up all the way to the back wall. These ladies didn’t need us there. They were their own church body praising God and leaning on Him to give them help in a time of need. We were just participants. During praise and worship I spied a tambourine and I was in trouble. I don’t have tambourines at my church services.
We danced and I lost my tambourine to another sister who could bust a move much better than me. I was wrecked with the love that God has for these women in this prison. These ladies were locked up but they were free. They were free and Holy Spirit was there right in the middle of it all.
He was freely comforting them and reminding these ladies of their value and purposes. I didn’t have to bring them any words of hope.
God had already delivered it and they were receiving it with tears and joy bursting out everywhere.
We were there to receive it along with them.
My speaking became nothing more than an agreement that God is good and we are all loved together equally. An acknowledgment really that Isaiah 61 seemed real and relevant to us there that night.
I left that evening experiencing God.
These ladies brought Jesus to me. They were now my sisters in Christ.
People say prisoners deserve to be in prison because of the crimes they commit.
I don’t disagree.
I deserve to go to hell because of the sins I have committed.
Jesus paid the debt so I could be free from that punishment.
These ladies are paying their debt in prison. They are free from punishment in eternity and they have a future that brings freedom.
Love never fails.
God’s love showed me who they are and how much He loves them. ❤
My prison visit set me free from any preconceived expectations and love didn’t fail that day.
Isaiah 61:1-7 (MSG)
61 1-7 The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me
because God anointed me.
He sent me to preach good news to the poor,
heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives,
pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of his grace—
a celebration of God’s destruction of our enemies—
and to comfort all who mourn,
To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion,
give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes,
Messages of joy instead of news of doom,
a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.
Rename them “Oaks of Righteousness”
planted by God to display his glory.
They’ll rebuild the old ruins,
raise a new city out of the wreckage.
They’ll start over on the ruined cities,
take the rubble left behind and make it new.
You’ll hire outsiders to herd your flocks
and foreigners to work your fields,
But you’ll have the title “Priests of God,”
honored as ministers of our God.
You’ll feast on the bounty of nations,
you’ll bask in their glory.
Because you got a double dose of trouble
and more than your share of contempt,
Your inheritance in the land will be doubled
and your joy go on forever.
Learn more about the ministry that I accompanied that day here