Guest Contributors: Tom and Gail
Why Am I Involved in Prison Ministry?
Five years ago two friends asked my husband and I to attend a meeting in a prison on a Saturday evening. We had been involved with an ecumenical prison ministry before this, and we knew a bit about what occurred generally, so we accepted and visited the maximum security prison...along with several other laypeople from various parts of the Western New York area. We walked in singing a Christian Song and then those on the retreat sang one in response.
Everyone said “Hi”, we sat down in with the team members and “men in green” at their tables. We then heard a talk that one of the team members had prepared on “Peace”. The individuals at tables then went up to the podium and the prisoners shared what had touched them during that particular day. Afterwards, we mingled with the group and went out of the facility about half an hour later. We joined with the team at a local church school that served as their headquarters...where they stayed overnight from Friday through Sunday.
"I was touched with how Jesus
was using these lay people
and guiding them to bring
the “men in green” closer to God"
Love from your sister-in-the-Lord,
I was asked to give some thoughts on working with a prison ministry. My first thought is that I wouldn't be involved without the support of my wife, Gail. I tend to be a procrastinator and even in writing these notes, she has had to “encourage” me. Sorry Kelly, for taking so long...
The weekend basically consists of a series of talks which follow a theme. Saturday of the weekend starts out with talks that focus on our need for God, how we fail as as humans and how Jesus cares and will forgive us. Between talks there are discussion periods at each table. A talk that always fosters discussion is the “Prodigal Son” talk. Many of these “men in green” have never encountered a loving father in their lives.
"The Holy Spirit needs time
to work not only in these men
but myself as well."
We believe that we go into prison to “build bridges” and to “plant seeds”. Are we successful? It is not up to us to judge this; it is up to God. We see some individuals that don't initially seem to be affected by the weekend but they may keep coming back for several weekends. It must have some positive effect on them. We see a few that have obviously changed. We need to realize that these men have not only man made walls around them but also self made walls to keep others out. These same type of walls keep me from becoming the person I was meant to be. The Holy Spirit needs time to work not only in these men but myself as well.
We're all called by God to share His love, to evangelize. One of the most important things for us on the team to remember, is to treat “the men in green” with dignity. They are treated with very little of any dignity while incarcerated. After all, these guys are behind bars because they weren't nice guys. We have to be aware of that, but they are human beings, children of God and we must treat them with dignity.
In closing my part, I ask two questions:
What can I do to reduce the violence in our culture ?
Are the prints I leave behind, Peace Prints ?
PS – Yes, we do eat the prison food for the weekend. It gives us something to offer up...