Prison Ministry: a Front Row Seat
About a year-and-a-half ago, I was on my daily walk when a Bible verse exploded powerfully in my mind. I literally stopped in my tracks as I heard the Lord seem to say, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” (Isaiah 6:8). I said, with tears in my eyes, “Here I am. Send me.” It wasn’t until weeks later that I learned the prison team had been praying for someone to join them.
After hearing from God, it was a simple matter of a couple of phone calls and an interview. After a background check, Hennepin County provided a tour and my first class date was set. I became part of a four-man team with Marc Geiger, Don Herweyer and Mike Christescu. They were all encouraging and supportive as I stepped into this ministry.
I was afraid and excited at the same time. I had experience mentoring an inmate through Prison Fellowship, but I’d never taught a class before. The Celebrate Recovery class we lead varies from 12 to 24 members each week. As we progress through the eight lessons, we begin to see changes in many of participants’ thinking and attitudes.
Through Prison Ministry, I’ve been privileged to witness men coming to Christ for the first time. The real shock for me was the nature and sweetness of the prayer requests of these men who have been hardened by sin and life circumstances.
The real shock for me was the nature and sweetness of the prayer requests of these men who have been hardened by sin and life circumstances.
I couldn’t be more different in background, culture and education from the men I serve. However, when we pray, all of those differences fall away. All that’s left is the gentle sounds of thanksgiving and praise rising to our Lord and master.
One of the many joys of serving in Celebrate Recovery is witnessing answers to prayer. Many of the men have never had someone pray for them or been encouraged to pray. Recently, one of our students became quite combative and disruptive, making it difficult to finish the class. Marc and I had no idea what prompted that behavior. We committed to pray all week for this man.
During the last class, he didn’t quite apologize, but explained that he had purposely challenged our faith to see if we could be moved. He said he was not ready to accept Christ yet, but would definitely give it more thought.
Two powerful lessons come to mind from these experiences. First, salvation is not my doing. It is my responsibility to plant the seed of God’s Word. It is only through the Holy Spirit that people come to repentance and turn their lives over to Jesus Christ. Second, we all need to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). I am grateful and humbled to be used by the Lord to do just that.
You’ve likely heard some of the remarkable stories of God’s work through the Prison Ministry. Week after week, we celebrate new lives in Christ represented by white roses. Prison Ministry gives you a front row seat to God’s transformational power. Contact Community Outreach to get involved this fall.
Jim Janick, Prison Ministry participant