Water Cooler 4/20/2018 Open Thread - My Time Behind Bars

Thank God It’s Friday!  Hello to my RedState friends (and curious bystanders!), and may today be the best day of your life!  Welcome to Friday’s Water Cooler, always an Open Thread.  Water Coolers tend to be a potpourri of topics of interest to the rotating author-of-the-day (and hopefully the community); Open Threads are a place where comments on any subject are encouraged and do not need to relate to the author’s or any other topic.  You are as qualified as anyone to leave a mark here – what would you like to share?  As for me, the movement of God is my favorite topic, so…

Prelude

Years ago, I had explicitly cut God from my life and moved on.  Of course, in a time of extreme crisis I called out for help and He answered.  While it is great to get saved, it threw a wrench in my whole worldview.  I had to reconsider the facts, and reconsidering led me humbly back to my Father.  One thing led to another.  First, being saved made me less hostile and more open to what might happen.  Next, I accepted an invite to church, attended, and knew I was home.  Later, about a dozen years ago, I went through a book study with a few brothers – The Good Life by Charles Colson, which had a huge impact on me internally, and planted the seed for eventual service.  And this last weekend, the plant started by that seed bloomed.

Charles Colson’s story started long ago, in a possibly mythical time where even the big fish, the politically well-connected could be sent to prison <gasp!> and do time for crimes they committed – even if they were part of the majority party!  He was an insider in the Nixon White House, and was sentenced to prison for his role in the cover-up of the Watergate break-in.  A petty crime relative to those we’ve seen over the last few decades that went unpunished – but I digress.  A big wig went to prison for a crime, and…was forever changed by his experience.  He left politics and spent the rest of his life in prison ministry.

The Relentless Pursuit of a Loving Father

Over time, I would be in church when someone would talk about prison ministry.  I would hear about it on the radio.  We would donate gifts to go to families of those incarcerated at Christmas.  Finally, last year my heart for prisoners came to a head with my getting several signs in short succession over the course of about a week.  This culminated in a “greet five or more people around you” moment in church where I met the person in front of me.  Emily Colson, Charles’ daughter.  She lives on the East Coast, but was in front of me that day.  It was clear God was trying to get my attention, and I answered – I sent notes to everyone I thought may have ever mentioned prison ministry, and one of those connected me to a Kairos group that serves Folsom Prison near where I live.  I told the Kairos group that God was sending me for some reason.  I was added to the list of participants for a Kairos Weekend, where we would go into the prison for 4 consecutive days, share the gospel, and encourage and love on those that we met.  We trained over a few months, got our background and health checks, completed security training, and then…

My Time Behind Bars

This last weekend I had the honor to serve on a team of about 40 beautiful children of God, many of whom have done this over and over over many years, only because God asked (Matthew 25:31-36; Hebrews 13:3).  I met individuals who had worked for years just to open the door for this program.  Individuals who spent countless hours supporting the “inside team” and the Kairos Weekend both physically and spiritually.  Individuals who went in, spending hours each day giving hugs, listening, discussing.  Some publicly shared deeply personal stories of pain and brokenness, with the praise of how God is healing the hurt.

Each day we would go into the prison, share the good news, love on the inmates that were participating in the program, and we would have frank discussions with them about things that had happened in our lives, how we were learning to make better choices, and how God makes this all possible.  We could see the effect that the weekend was having on the inmates – the spreading of the good news, and the spreading of hope.  We could also see the effect that the weekend was having on us – God is so good to let us participate in the work of his kingdom.  Never forget this.

This is The Church, and it is a beautiful thing to behold.