I got to go to the prison thursday night as a part of our prison ministry at the church/bible college here. It was such an amazing experience! I've always had a heart for people in prison...I always wanted to know what it was like inside, or to work with these people, but clearly i don't have the tough persona needed to work as a prison guard...and i can't tell you how many times i've thought about trying to get involved with an organization writing letters to inmates but I guess my fears always got in the way. So when I got here at the beginning of the semester and they said they had this prison outreach opportunity i put my name on the list before even giving myself a chance to second guess myself. And I'm so glad I did! :)
We left around 5, it's about a 45 minute to an hour drive to the prison. It was kind of exciting to get out of York and to see a little of the country side. Except that apparently I get really car sick these days...I was literally green when we got to the prison and I was soo happy to get out of the car! We had to go through a security scanner, and had to leave everything except our bibles in lockers. Then we got to go through the gates into the prison...it was actually a pretty decent building inside, nothing fancy, but not too shabby!
We gathered in the chapel and arranged chairs and such and then the guys from the prison came in. It's a pretty sweet thing, the guys are there by choice, but they're definitely not all christians. A few are muslim, there was a buddhist, and an awful lot of people who just don't believe in anything. So we did a little worship, Ed shared a message, and then we spent an hour or so just hanging out, talking with the guys.
I ended up talking with a guy named Wayne who just happened to be from Warrington (where Matt lives) what a small world! It was great though, I shared the Lord with him when it seemed fitting, and other than that just really spent time talking with him, encouraging him, and asking him about his life. It was sad, this guy has served 10 years already, and he feels like he's paid his dues. He was only 18 when he went in, and lets face it someone can do an awful lot of growing up between the ages of 18-28. This guy wants so bad to be out and to start fresh, he wants a family and lots of kids. It was kind of heart breaking hearing him talk about all his dreams and then hear him talk about how he feels like he's earned his freedom and forgiveness but that it just isn't enough for the people who get to make that decision. It was so hard explaining to him the freedom he can have in Christ...and that he doesn't even have to earn or prove anything to anyone in this world except to the Lord. He seemed open but he definitely wasn't really to accept Christ just yet.
I left feeling so absolutely blessed though! It was so sweet to really just be able to share the love of Christ with people who don't get to spend much time with people other than their cell mates. You could tell they definitely appreciated the company!
I wish I could go back every night...but it's just a once a month occasion...and sadly I'll only be here for one more visit! But luckily I think they've just started a very similar outreach group at home so hopefully I'll be able to keep up with it!
"I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness." Isaiah 42:7