Once again, I am honored to share a story written by one of our jail volunteers through Crossroads Outreach, Carla Ward. Her passion for working with the inmates in jails and prisons is as big as her heart. I love sharing these stories because our men and women in the jails and prisons are often forgotten or looked upon as the scum of society, and forgetting that they are created in the same image of God that we all are.
Kingdom Builder, by Carla Ward
“It was the first Monday night after the trio of holidays that are toughest on the inmates. Thanksgiving, Christmas and the start of the New Year. My partners in jail ministry weren’t able to come this night for our weekly Bible Study with the women inmates. I went alone, with the intent to simply have a conversation with them about whatever was in their hearts. They would determine the context of our evening together.
Our weekly attendance has been as large as 18 inmates, with 8-10 being our average. Tonight, there were just 5 women, clad in orange. Each of the 5 are mothers and feel the weight of the influence that their absence and cries have had on the people who love them. On every Monday night, the majority who come to our meeting room reveal gladness and relief. Some simply come to get out of their block. Either way, it is at that point that we step back and let the Holy Spirit lead us. On this night the Holy Spirit was powerful. We covered a lot of topics, mostly related to how they fit into the world. How do they go back and parent their children when their own lives are so messed up? Why does the world see them one way and Jesus see them another? Why does my mother say I only found God because I went to jail? How am I supposed to do better when this is all I’ve known? Why have I never been told that I am treasured, valued and loved?
As we work with them on their identity in Christ, we have called them Kingdom Builders with the message that when they come to Christ they receive both privilege and responsibility. “Kingdom Builder” is a title they love and they say it over and over, out loud, as if it is a foreign set of words that has to slowly sink in for them to grasp it’s truth. Kingdom Building – a big bold responsibility for a group of women the world has discarded. It’s a daring leap from their earthly titles as inmate, criminal, addict… It matters to them who they are and that they are more than who the world says they are.
One woman has had her Bible for about 3 months. She has become so devoted to her personal study that it is now highlighted, Post-It-Noted, dog-eared, tattered and tear stained. The women have begun holding their own Bible studies during the day, and are actively keeping each other accountable to spending time in the Word. They come to us with questions about passages they’ve read on their own and they share with us Scripture that has spoken personally to them. They are talking to their families about their transformation to Christianity. This is a group of women who, on the streets, were likely at odds with each other.
On this specific Monday night, one of the women who has come to Christ during the short time we have been ministering in the jail, spoke up with excitement. “We tithed,” she blurted adding that she and 2 of the other women from her cell block had decided to tithe to Crossroads. She explained that they have been so blessed by our commitment to meet with them every week to share our hearts for Jesus that they wanted to return the blessing. They were apologetic about the size of the gift. We talked about the fact that God cares less about the dollar amount than he does about the heart of the giver. And we discussed that the intent of tithing is that it is made to Him.
Made New: Over the short few months of our time together their families have seen changes in them. The guards and jail staff have seen change. The women show literal, physical change as they wear their new confidence and conviction. They are softened, surrendered, saved!”