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.
DJ is as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. He can’t stand still. He shifts his weight from one foot to the other and occasionally goes through the motions of shooting a jump shot with an imaginary basketball. Along with two other men, he waits nervously between two locked fences ringed with razor wire.
These three men are dressed in white from head to toe, including their tennis shoes. They carry all of their limited belongings in a white laundry bag that serves as both suitcase and library. Book-shaped images stretch the sides of the bags and test the strength of the fabric as well as the men who carry them.
I don’t know the other two men personally although I have seen them occasionally at this state prison outside of Houston. DJ, however, has become my friend over the last eight months as we entered into and developed a mentoring relationship. It was a privilege to play a small role in the last few preparatory steps for his release after 18 years of incarceration. Contrary to the oft-repeated maxim that our prisons are full of “innocent” men, DJ readily admits he was arrested in the midst of a blossoming life of crime as a young 20 year-old gang member on the inner city streets of Dallas.
We were blessed to receive a letter from both a volunteer and inmate for the same event. The October 16, 2010 Basketball at Darrington Unit.
The first letter is from Chad Chambers, a CHARM volunteer...
Romans 12:1 states, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” These are the words Malcolm Marshall turned to as he called the men gathered in the Chapel at Darrington Unit to give their lives to completely to Christ – to follow whole-heartedly the gospel of Christ no matter their individual circumstances. Yet, it was more than simply a message to the men of Darrington, these words encapsulate a day enveloped by the presence of God’s Spirit.
The morning started early. Each of the men gathered in the parking lot of Houston’s First Baptist Church before 7:00 am had chosen to spend this Saturday away from their families, their jobs, and their normal routines. But, a sense of anticipation, not obligation, could be felt as we chatted, stretched and drank coffee in the parking lot. The feeling continued as we made the drive out to the unit, never a dull journey for those riding with Dave, and went through the security checkpoints to enter the unit’s parking lot.
With all the gear collected and checked in with the guards, it was time to enter the prison unit. This is a very different experience for each of the men present. For myself, a relative new-comer to prison ministry, it is an anxious moment not being sure what awaits on the other side. And for others in the group, it is an anxious moment because they know all to well what awaits on the other side having spent weeks, months, and years calling this unit “home”. For each man, though the anxiousness is worth the reward of this day in Darrington.
Time for Tip-off
What do you enjoy? Reading, watching movies, cooking, baseball... obviously, the list is endless. As you think about that, wouldn't it be great to use your "hobby" for the glory of God? The answer is a resounding YES! I love sports. I always have and I guess I always will. Sports has a way of bringing people together in a way which few things do. While playing, you are just a ballplayer... everyone is equal and that's always a good thing.
Basketball is my first love. While my skills are fading fast with age, the desire to play is still there. I've played basketball with David Trickett for years and I was extremely excited when he mentioned that he was adding basketball to C.H.A.R.M.'s sports program. I had participated in volleyball outreach events and knew that the men and women were very competitive.
I was expecting the same to be true with basketball. Fortunately, we have a great group of guys at Houston's First Baptist Church and Second Baptist Church that are also good basketball players. Not only do they "walk the walk.
Malcolm Marshall (Mista Excelsius) and the Men of IFI
Our first adventure took place in May at the Carol Vance unit in Sugarland. Of course, there was some good natured trash talking as we began but our incarcerated brothers didn't realize how good we were and we stole the day. But that wasn't what was important; we played good clean games, we bonded, ate chow together and worshipped together.
Basketball was the vehicle God used to bring men on the outside together with men on the inside to share life. Malcolm Marshall AKA "Mista Excelsius" led the men in a time of worship and then challenged them not to just wear the title of Christian but live it out and to be real men of God. It was great.d
Volleyball at Carole Young Unit
Having never been inside a prison, let alone played a full day of volleyball with women who are incarcerated, I had no frame of reference for the life-changing event that took place on Saturday, July 10th with C.H.A.R.M.!
C.H.A.R.M. Volunteers - Thank You Ladies!
It was a bit sobering to see the prison in the distance as we were pulling up, especially after lighthearted car conversations that we just came from during the hour long drive to the Carole Young Unit in Dickinson. The reality of this broken world can hit like a ton of bricks. Yet after walking past guards, getting signed in, entering the gates and hearing the loud clang behind me, I heard music! Loud praise music!
As we walked up to the court these women threw their arms out ready to hug each of us with a huge smile. I have rarely been so instantly accepted! We praised God together, we joked around, we made conversation about our lives.
Celebrating Jarvis' homecoming in San Antonio
I can remember it like it was yesterday. I was a new believer and I wanted so much to follow the Lord wholeheartedly. I just didn't know what that looked like. I needed someone to give practical application to the scriptures. Just a few months before from the floor of my cell in the Harris County jail, in a puddle of my own tears, full of guilt and shame for all the wrongs that I had done, I came to the end of myself and I cried out to God "if you're out there and you're real, come into my heart and change my life". He did just that. He met me right where I was. There was an overwhelming sense of peace and joy that was unexplainable. I was very familiar with jailhouse religion but this was something different. A fews years prior I myself had walked an isle for salvation(Fire Insurance) but never allowed the Lord His rightful place on the throne of my life thus resulting in no change. The transformation I experienced that night reminds me of the passage from Isaiah 61:1-4,7...."The Spirit of the Lord God was upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion-to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that HE may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.... Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy."
Back Inside, Ministering Together!
I first met David Trickett in early 1999 at the Garza West Unit. Hungry to grow in his new life with Christ and yet struggling with his old identity, the Lord placed me in David's life to encourage and challenge him. Interestingly, I discovered David was placed in my life to do the very same thing for me.
The Lord allowed us to serve together in ministry to the men of the Garza West Unit not only in meeting spiritual needs but also physical needs. David came to me one night and asked what he could do specifically to assist the fellowship. As deodorant and toothpaste is always a great need for those incarcerated, we prayed for God's provision in that area and God began to faithfully meet that need. Even after David was released from prison in 2002, he continued to personally send funds for this need among his brothers still behind bars.
While together at Garza West, I challenged David to begin taking a leadership role in our Bible Study opportunities. I watched as the Lord matured him by leaps and bounds and the lives of countless men were touched by his sincerity and openness.
Meeting After Months of Mail Coorespondence
When I was released from prison in September of 2009, David and Kaye were on hand in San Antonio to welcome me home. We dreamed of serving together again behind bars and this past July had the opportunity to do so as I joined David in an outreach event at the Carol Vance Unit in Richmond. Looking into the faces of the men at Carol Vance my prayer was that they would find a true friend and brother as I did in David. I realized, in fact, they HAVE found a true friend and brother in David.
I am truly encouraged and my heart is warmed as I think about how God is using C.H.A.R.M. among the men and women incarcerated in Texas.
Always a Good Soldier of Jesus Christ,
Jarvis Moore of InsideOut Ministry
The Day I Went to Prison by Becky Kiser
I remember the fear and insecurity I felt as I prepared to walk through the prison doors this past Sunday. I wasn't sure how I would feel being there, I wasn't sure I would be accepted, I wasn't sure if I was safe, I wasn't sure of much. Except I was sure that the Lord had called me to go that Sunday night and love on ladies that were hurting and encourage and challenge them in the Word of God. So I was there.
It was a beautiful night, you could see the stars in the sky as we walked through the prison courtyard and made our way to the Chapel. It wasn't what we are used to. The room was stuffy, it seemed like a small warehouse room but when we walked in there was a sense of anticipation of what would happen in the next few hours.
So you gave up a Saturday to volunteer with C.H.A.R.M. and minister in one of the prisons in Texas. Maybe your day entailed playing a few games of volleyball, eating in the prison cafeteria and participating in an afternoon church service.
It was a day full of activity but by mid afternoon its time to start wrapping up and heading back to Houston. For you it was a great day to hangout with friends and minister to an unknown brother or sister. You actually think, "I can do this again" and you probably will.
Recently, C.H.A.R.M. was presented with a new ministry opportunity at the Carole Young Women's Unit in Dickinson. Between 60 and 70 women each month go without proper hygiene items. The State does not provide them with items we would consider as essentials like toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo & conditioner. If their families cannot provide those items for them through the unit commissary, these women simply go without. They are labeled as "Indigent".
Kaye was asked if C.H.A.R.M. could step in and provide these much needed items on a regular basis and without hesitation she responded as she sensed the Lord would if the request was made of Him. Kaye & David will be delivering the first batch of items for 70 women this week. A good portion of the items were provided by another ministry and the Tricketts will be shopping for the rest.
If you know of someone who has connections with a retailer or wholesaler who carries such products and you believe they might be interested in helping to supply this need, please contact them on behalf of C.H.A.R.M. or direct us to do so. As you can imagine, if C.H.A.R.M. has to purchase these items on a regular basis through a retailer our limited budget will be deleted quickly.
If you would like to help provide for this need personally, we would welcome you to designate your donation as "Indigent". We will see that your funds are used appropriately.
Can you imagine how God will use these simple gifts to open the hearts and souls
of these needy women? To God be the Glory!