We partnered with a prison ministry called Dew4Him, that works monthly to bring discipleship and encouragement to the ladies at NCCIW. I got to be part of the annual retreat put on for the women at the prison, which I learned was one of the only times people from the outside come and bless them with things like a healthy meals and fun activities, one girl at my table said the retreat weekend and Christmas are pretty much the only times, and hearing that made my heart ache...
“Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins”.
Hear my heart in this, I am thankful for the justice system in our country and the institution of prison to carry out discipline for those who break the law. But now I am able to look past the crime and see the person.
That day I was reminded of the need for the gospel in places like prison, where people are forgotten, In hopeless places where love is sparse. It's not our job to judge them or to help God carry out the weight of punishment, but to extend grace to them. There is one judge and He is God, He will surely judge all the hearts. But as for us, we have the freedom and privilege to give grace. Who will reach them with Jesus if we do not? How will they know about our forgiving God unless we tell them?! And how can we have eyes to see the need if they are clouded by judgement. Here's one of my favorite passages of scripture about evangelism:
For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
If I had to sum up my time at the prison in two words they would be Perspective + Gratitude.
I gained a perspective of these women that I've never had, before I would have called them criminals maybe... but now I call them sisters. Before I would have said they are serving a sentence for a crime they committed, but now I think about that sentence and my heart breaks for them, they will spend every night away from their son or daughter for the rest of their childhood. I observed the cycle of poverty that exists which may or may not lead women to crime. In poverty they do not thrive because they can't afford to, they are just trying to make it. Some turn to crime in order to provide for their families. You say, "yes, but everyone has the opportunity to make wise decisions", however, what if all you ever saw as a child was poor decisions made by the ones you loved the most. Drugs and alcohol, crime and hate, just don't set the stage for success.
I spoke with one mother while I was there who shared about her son who was gifted in art and she was encouraging him to pursue graphic design. He said to her, "Mom you're the only one encouraging me"... my heart broke. I cannot imagine that boy's surroundings and the laundry list of things he will fight against each day just to rise above the cycle of poverty. I saw the deep hurt from a mother who has almost no control over her son and his future. She was desperate for God to intervene on his behalf.
See, we don't get the luxury of choosing the family we're born into, let's extend grace and understanding to the ones who are given less, and remember that if you were born into a healthy family, it is a precious gift you should not take for granted.
|Here's the picture I painted that day.|
During the second worship set of the day I was painting, and thoughts rushed through my mind about the women at my table, "what can I say to them Lord?" Have you ever felt overwhelmed by a need, and at a loss for what to do about it? That's where I was, what could I possibly say to them in one eight hour day that would make an impact in their lives. Instead of words, He gave me gratitude. Instead of knowing what to say, my heart was moved to tears and flooded with nothing but gratitude, for the ladies I met, and their stories... even though I didn't know them. God gave me gratitude for the lives they led before prison, and the ones they'll choose to live when they get out. I was thankful for their hearts and how God made them, for their strengths and gifts in Christ. He reminded me that they are His children, as am I, and He loves them just the same.
I am so thankful I got to be part what God is doing in that prison. I will treasure my perspective + gratitude and carry it where I go, remembering the women at NCCIW.
If you would like to give financially to help send #scripturedoodle to places of need like the women's prison, you can donate here. Our biggest goal for 2015 is to see #scripturedoodle alive and well in five countries, your donations to our #scripturedoodle global initiative will help make that dream a reality. Thank you for giving!