On Sunday mornings, I worship in a warm, cozy sanctuary. I lift my frequently off-key voice in songs of praise. I sing words that tell of chains being gone, of freedom, of God making a way, of His blessings. I sometimes raise my hands, though am more prone to do it at home. I wear bright colors of my choosing.
Two weeks ago, Lee Rust of Forever Freedom Ministries had the opportunity to return to KCIW (KY Correctional Institute for Women) in Louisville. It was her first visit back since COVID (2020). I had the privilege of joining her. For many months, her prayer and heart’s desire had been to break through the restrictions to be able to meet inmates there to study God’s Word. Finally, the fullness of time arrived. We were so excited neither of us slept the night before.
Women in khaki uniforms came with big smiles and Bibles to hear a long-awaited word. They filled the small chapel, listened attentively, sang with all their hearts, and lifted their hands heavenward. They sang of chains being gone, of being free, of God making a way, of His blessings. Prison is not like jail. While many we see at the county jail are still in denial, the women of KCIW have been tried and found guilty. Some will serve years as a consequence of their crimes. Many of them will never ever be released. Yet, they praised the Lord.
Lee, a KBC MSC Missionary, has her story of how God drew her to prison ministry in 2000. I have my own, which began in 2006. It was not what I expected. Isn’t that just how God works? I only checked it out because I didn’t want to be swallowed by a whale/fish like Jonah.
Teaching Bible studies at a prison wasn’t even on my radar. That’s typically where God works best: out of our comfort zone. He partnered me with Tanya Parker, a young mother of three little girls. (She didn’t want to be swallowed by a whale, either.) We had no prison experience and had never taught adults. Our focus had been children at church. But … God lit a passion in our hearts to serve women who were incarcerated — women often forgotten by society. Our team began to grow. After the women’s prison closed, God opened the door for us to serve at our county jail.
God calls us to serve others and make His name known. Not ours, but His. Are you serving? Are you telling others about Jesus? All throughout the Bible, He used ordinary people to tell His story, stretching them out of their comfort zones. Fishermen, farmers, shepherds and sellers of purple became men and women on mission, telling everyone they knew about the life changing, way-making God in heaven. He can still do that today!If we’re willing. Is there an unreached people group that needs you? I love going on mission trips. Sometimes that’s out of the country; sometimes it’s across the street.
One of the songs we sang at KCIW was “Chain Breaker,” by Zack Williams: “If you’ve got pain, He’s a pain taker; If you feel lost, He’s a way maker; If you need freedom or saving; He’s a prison-shaking Savior; If you’ve got chains, He’s a chain breaker.”