I didn’t know what to expect. I just knew that I’ve always loved women’s ministry and to be used of the Lord to share God’s truth and speak about the great love and redemption in Jesus Christ. When I learned of the opportunity to go with CHARM ministries and visit a women’s prison, I jumped at the chance. I knew it was from the Lord.
I remember walking through the gates of the prison, wondering how it must feel to know you are physically bound to a place. Going through that last door and hearing the sound of it slamming shut. Thinking how it must also seem like any hope must be shut out as well. What would the women be like? What do I say to them? How could I relate?
As these questions were going through my mind, I remembered what we have to offer anyone, whatever the circumstances are. We offer them the Lord Jesus Christ, The One who came to set the captives free. The glorious redeemer who gives sight to the blind, and can raise the dead. This is what I witnessed that beautiful warm sunny Saturday with the women. I witnessed the grace of Jesus Christ and the truth that there is no situation, no circumstance, no sin that is beyond His forgiveness, or beyond His power to redeem.
You see, as we approached the courtyard, it was unexpected what I saw next, what I heard next. I heard the sound of laughter and joy. They greeted us with shouts of excitement. They welcomed us as you do with a friend you were anticipating to see. And right there for several hours, we played volleyball, we laughed together, we worshipped God together, and we sat at His feet as we broke open God’s word and learned together.
For a moment, I forgot where we were. And then a guard would start to say orders and the women would follow in line. And suddenly I remembered, and the barbed wire fences and guards with guns would become stark clear in my vision.
The ladies were amazing. They shared their stories with me. They shared their tears and regret. One of the women said, “Oh, I definitely did it. I drove the getaway car. I sold the stolen goods. And I tell you what, if I wasn’t here, I would be dead right now. That much is the truth.” With her honest confession, she also shared her desire to obtain her certificate in cosmetology so she can have a job when she gets out and returns home. She has a son - young boy she thinks of and prays for. Oh, I was so privileged to hear her story and to be used of the Lord to be the hands and feet of Christ.
When I was telling the story to a friend, she asked me, “Weren’t you scared to go into a prison?” I said, strangely, no. As Christians, this is what we do. We walk as our Savior did. You see, going into prison that day in December, was the best way to remember and celebrate Christmas. He stepped out of the comfort of heaven into a broken, battered, sin-stained world. And the beauty of the good news, it is not too much for Him to handle! He came for us. So we go to others and do the same.
Yes, as His people, we go into the hard places, into the uncomfortable places, confident that we are His and in the grip of His sovereign will and grace. And we are invited into the greatest story. The one God has been telling for centuries. I came for you, right as you are. Whether it is a physical prison of concrete walls, or the chains of sin in our hearts, He has come to set the captive free!