I've lost track of the day/month/year I became involved in jail ministry and as close as I can tell it's somewhere in the 15- 17 year range. There have been many Sundays like today, that I wake feeling inadequate, unprepared, and ill-equipped to make the hours drive to the facility where I serve and meet with women who may or may not want to see or hear the Word I come bearing.
I'm ok with that. I do and don't go for them. I do go to share the message of Christ - of hope, healing, and restoration through the Gospel message, and I don't go expecting anything from them. I care, but I'm not emotional about it. It's about being faithful, not about acceptance or rejection.
I've made the drive some days for naught - turned away because of an outbreak of head lice or women with no appetite for spiritual things. Some days I quality time with one or two hungry souls. Other days I leave spent and drained after pouring the Word into multiple cells with multiple hungry hearts and a zillion questions.
I love it. I never know what to expect except that God is in control. Over the years I've been privileged to include almost my entire immediate family, my mom and even inlaws in aspects of the ministry. Administrations have come and gone, buildings have gone up, dogs, protocols and rules have been added, but at the end of the day, it's still about sitting across from each other and opening the Scriptures.
These women, these amazing, beautiful, women, for the most part are no different than I. Yes, they've been involved with things that got them in trouble. Most are sins of the flesh that got the best of them. Some are nothing more than stupid irresponsibility. Only a very few are downright evil. Many know and have a genuine love for God. Many more have begun their spiritual journey in that direction.
Today was special. It was one of those rare days we got down and dirty with the raw truth of how ugly sin is and were lifted up with the glorious truth of our Savior's power to overcome sin, hell, death and the grave. We enjoyed fellowship, laughed, anguished, counseled and cried together. When I left we embraced in prayer looking forward to doing it again in heaven.
I've heard people say, "There, but for the grace of God, go I" in regard to those who have stumbled or are less fortunate. I've come to dislike that statement. God's grace doesn't make me better than anyone else. I may have better circumstances, but I'm not loved any more than they are. The sacrifice of Calvary is there to cover their failures every bit as much as my own.
That being said, jail is a special place for me and even on mornings like today life wouldn't be the same without "doing my time". There is no pretending, no posturing, and no agendas. Just women trying to help each other get through a tough time and meeting together on the level ground at the foot of the Cross where we're all sinners in need.