Of all the ministry work I have done in these last couple of weeks, the highlight was picking an inmate up from a prison who was being released!
You may ask: “How is that ministry?” or “Why in the world would that be a highlight?” I could even ask myself that; after all, I spent over 10 hours on the road to get him: he’s not a family member or a friend: He has been in and out of prison and jail many times, and, according to statistics, will probably end up back again soon: I am way behind on my work and could have been getting catching up on that... and a hundred other excuses.
Ya see, in my past, I have been in jail and prison many times, and it’s always been my dope dealer or a friend or family member who is a user who came and picked me up when I was released. So, on top of all the negative thoughts I had before release, of the things I wanted to do, I was encouraged to do them by the people who picked me up. I want to party and get high...I wanna have sex...I wanna get revenge on the person who got me locked up...payback time...any many others.
Ya see, I once was a dope dealer, but now I’m a hope dealer and I believe in giving people chances: the same chances people gave me which is the reason I am where I am today. I don’t care who ya are, what your past looks like, what you have done, or even if I’ve helped ya before and you burned me. I will try to help you.
I do jail ministry in the Bayfield County and Ashland county jails. Mostly I visit inmates on a one-on-one basis who request to see me. As the Director of Addictions Transformation at Crossroads Outreach, I visit inmates who are requesting help and go in to visit with them to see where they are at and if we can help. I try to work with them to set up SMART goals, offer addictions counseling, and set them up with mentors when they are released.
The guy I picked up was one of the inmates I visited with multiple times. He’s a street hardened guy who’s been in trouble and in jail and prison most of his life. He has multiple kids by multiple women, he was a druggie, a womanizer, and what most people would consider a “reject of society.’
But this guy was created in the image of God just as we all were, and I know the potential people like him have and know what God can do with someone if He gets hold of them.
Just the fact that he asked me to be the one who picked him up meant a lot. He would rather the “hope dealer” come get him than the “dope dealer.” That, in itself, encouraged me because it isn’t typical. I had a 5 1⁄2 hour drive back with him where I had the opportunity to speak life into him and encourage him. I brought him to get a haircut and am bringing him in to see his parole officer today. We prayed for him in the parking lot when we rolled into town and showed him love.
As I waited outside the prison for over an hour for him to come out, it brought flashbacks to the many times I was released from prison and the things I was thinking as I walked out of the gates. None of it was very positive. None of it was thoughts for a positive future or hopes for a normal life. It was pretty weird being the guy to pick someone up rather than being the one picked up.
My wife and I have taken in a few inmates coming out of jail recently. Giving them the opportunity to come somewhere safe and be with people who love them for who they are and for who they can be. To love on them and be a positive influence to help them have a good start. None of the most recent ones worked out and most went back to jail. Most don’t last 2 days with us before they don’t come back again. Most are back in jail within a week. But we will always continue to help and be there for them. Ya see, we don’t sit around complaining about the crime in our area, rather, we try to help the people doing these crimes become the image of God they were created to be. If you can change one, they will have influence over others. Rather than talk smack about crime and criminals, we pray about it and do something about it.
I would rather try to help one person like this than preach to a bunch of people who already know about Jesus and are sitting in a church.
In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus talks about the final Judgment where He separates the sheep from the goats. Guess what, being a good preacher and getting big attendances and baptizing the most people and getting the most people to turn to Jesus is not on the list of things He will be judging people on. I end this with some of His words in that passage: “...Then He (Jesus) will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me...”