Friday, August 30, 2013

In jail…

Last Sabbath, I found myself in jail. 

Yes, in jail! What was I doing in jail? Keep reading…

Imagine living day after day of your life behind closely guarded gates and high walls.

Imagine having no electronic gadgets to communicate with the outside world.

Imagine not having the freedom to go anywhere you wish at anytime.

Imagine what it would be like to be an inmate in a jail.

How did I get to be in a jail? No, it wasn’t because I had committed some crime that landed me there. It was my desire to be a blessing and minister to the inmates inside the jail. Here’s the story:

In April of this year, I had the privilege of meeting a lady Doctor who goes once a month to the ladies’ jail here in the area. During our conversation, she mentioned to me about her mission project there at the jail and invited me to come and speak to the ladies for a Sabbath worship service. I was unable to go at that time because of my schedule, but always kept it in mind and determined that as soon as I could, I would try to visit the jail she had spoken to me about.

And last Sabbath was the day! I was really excited, since I had never before visited a jail anywhere, let alone in a foreign country! The Adventists have been working in this jail for more than 20 years and have raised up a church inside with around 50-70 members (if I remember correctly). Each Sabbath, one of the churches in the area goes to the women’s jail and does the service for the ladies living there.

To get inside, we had to leave all our personal belongings in a locker, bringing only our Bibles with us. After making sure who we were, why we were coming in and getting a stamp on our hands, we passed through a huge iron gate and entered the women’s jail.

Inside was a community, complete with small shops for buying beads, food, cloth, etc. After passing several large buildings, we came to the small chapel that the Adventists use each Sabbath. Already the service had started and the little church was full to overflowing.

Many of the ladies came to greet us and welcome us to their church. As I listened to the inmates singing the same hymns we sing in our churches outside, it brought tears to my eyes. They really sing with all their heart and soul and really mean what they are singing about. So often when we are in church, it’s easy to just sing because that’s the thing to do without really thinking about what the song is really saying and whether we mean it or not.

But not in the jail. Those ladies sang with such meaning and sincerity and it really touched my heart! I had the privilege of speaking to them about God’s forgiveness and how He will forgive us no matter what we’ve done or how evil we’ve been if we just ask. As I looked out over the congregation, I noticed several ladies crying and wondered to myself what their story was.

As I spoke, hearty “amens” came from all parts of the congregation and I would see they were really listening and understanding the message from God’s Word.  The message ended with a solemn reminder that when we receive forgiveness from God unconditionally, we must also forgive others for what they’ve done to us. I was so blessed to share that simple message with them and to see the joy and happiness they had found in Jesus!

After the program, all the ladies were given laundry soap, bar soap and some food for their meal, for which they were very grateful. Many thanked us for coming as they went back to their respective places.

As we slowly made our way back to the gate (and freedom), talking with different inmates along the way, I mentioned to my friends, “We came here to encourage them and bless them, but we end up being the ones who are encouraged ourselves!” Everyone agreed this was the reason they kept coming back Sabbath after Sabbath to the women’s jail.

Soon, we stepped through the big gate, past the guards, collected our bags and realized how easy it was for us to come and go with such freedom. But those inside are not so fortunate. Some of them have stayed there for months and even years. Some will spend the rest of the lives inside.

As we traveled back to our respective homes, all I could say was, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” And yet, though we had gone to give, we had received a richer blessing in return.

My friends, if you’ve never visited a jail or done jail ministry before, I invite you to enter an often-neglected mission field and you will be richly blessed for doing so!

Remember what Christ says to us: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Wherever it might be, God wants you to work for Him! :)

I would love to share with you some pictures of the time we spent there, but no cameras or cell phones were allowed inside.