Crossroads Outreach in Ashland has been sending ladies into the County Jails in Ashland and Washburn to minister to the female residents in the last few months. Many of us like to sit around and complain about the drug and crime problems in our areas and have the mindset of “Lock them up and throw away the keys.” However, those of us In Christ know the value of ALL people, and not only have a desire to see them changed, but we KNOW it’s possible through Christ.
I feel led to share this article one of our volunteers posted on Facebook after their night at the Washburn County Jail on 9/11/17. The article was written by Carla Ward, one of the Crossroads Jail Ministry Volunteers.
“Jail night tonight. The number of inmates coming for Bible study has been increasing every week. Tonight they just kept coming until we finally had to pull our chairs away from the tables to make room, which left us all a little more raw, slightly more exposed. There were 18 inmates, which I believe is 100% of the current female population. The familiar faces seemed to convey increasing comfort and trust. The new, unfamiliar faces were searching. Every face reveals pain and every heart bleeds for a life other than what they are living. Most are moms. Most are addicts. All are feeling the weight of having left loved ones behind. All fear the trap of returning to a life that will continue to recycle more of the same bad behaviors.
Not all are believers. And we know that some initially come just to get out of their pods for 90 minutes. But there is a change taking place. There is a softening, an understanding, and a desire to come back every week. Some are now studying the Bible amongst themselves in small groups during the week. They are asking for Bibles, study guides, access to churches, etc. They want to know where to find Scripture for their pain points. While they are not (yet) all Christians, they all agree that we/they do not have the ability, power or wisdom to manage this world and all its trappings on their own - that they must depend on a power greater than themselves.
Our plan for the night changed when I forgot to bring the main item for our study. Instead, God did as He does and showed us what He wanted us to see. Our group has tripled since we started going there. Hope hangs in the air as we talk about their identity in Christ. They lean in a little more when we remind them of how the perfect Father chose them and loves them, and they linger a little longer when the guards come to end our time together.
Victory is often quietly revealed. In ministry, the ultimate victory is bringing unbelievers to Christ. But that level of transformation is technically God's job. As servants, the victories are sometimes only noticed in the nuances... increased eye contact, a nod of agreement, a smile that lasts a nanosecond longer, a willingness to read aloud, a contribution when we go around the table to express just one thing for which we are grateful, the seemingly hardened heart intentionally choosing to sit close by weekly as she starts dropping fewer f-bombs and begins asking more questions. These are the victories - not ours - but God's. These are the pulse of relationships.
I used to be the person who said, "Lock them up and throw away they key." God has a funny way of teaching us who He is and allowing our circumstances to mold us into who He wants us to become. He will use our stories for His good, with or without our permission. Relationships are an assignment from God and when he gave me the assignment to serve inmates, I told him "No - not them". He kept tapping, dripping, nudging the instruction to "wear the cloak of Christ" - to sit in His seat and love as He loves. Instead of changing my mind, He changed my heart, which is the only real, lasting point of transformation. So I now serve inmates. I go each and every time thinking we are bringing God to them. But I am reminded every week that He doesn't need me to accomplish His purpose. What He wants is my obedience.
"Serving the Last, the Least and the Lost is a game changer - I am in awe. Forever changed.” -Carla Ward