As Director of Addictions Transformation at Crossroads outreach in Ashland part of my job is doing jail/prison ministry, training and equipping Churches to work with ex-convicts, to equip them to do jail ministry, and to train them to be mentors to the men and women when they are released. We have two teams of women who currently go into the Ashland and Bayfield County jails. Carla Ward is not only one of the ladies who goes into the jails up here but is also a Prison Fellowship volunteer and has a great heart for the hurting. The following is one of the many little thought-provoking articles she writes dealing with her experiences in the county jail. Thank you for all you do Carla, and thank you for your heart to bring back the lost.

“It's not something you hear in an average conversation. But the inmates know it to be true. Prison is only the better option when the other choice is jail. It's not the better option in the context of Freedom. And yet, the one who said it is usually the leader, the talkative, cheerful believer who leads bible studies with the women when we aren't there. The others look up to her for her faith and leadership. She is preparing for Freedom in a few weeks. But tonight she was uncharacteristically quiet. Her joy seems to be replaced with fear and the fear appears to have silenced her. So it is ironic that her only words tonight were to encourage another inmate who is leaving the jail this week to go to prison: "You'll like prison better."

Jails and prisons are, at best, containers. Necessary, increasingly utilized containers. Their sole purpose is to separate and protect. Prison/Jail Reform is a misnomer. They are neither equipped nor intended to produce reformed citizens. They exist to keep the public safe. There is no real reform without a heart change - filling that God-shaped hole in the heart with a promise for eternal rescue. We spent the evening with an amazing group of women who keep showing up for more of Jesus. Less world. More Jesus. They are true students/seekers. They are hungry for more truth and have done a surprising job of supporting each other. There was a peace amongst them tonight that I suspect is equal amounts of hope and fear. They are afraid of their immediate future and the traps that freedom will bring (what a contradiction!) and yet they have become increasingly confident in their walk with Jesus.

Kingdom Builders - they liked being called that and you could see the power of that title sort of settle into them, like the badge of honor that it is. It gave them confidence to know that their relationships are assignments and that God has work for them to do. Carrying confidence in your identity causes others to say, "I want what she has." We encouraged them to think about how they are gifted and that God pairs those gifts with their experiences and their relationships to define their purpose. Heavy and Hopeful describes the air in our little jail gathering tonight. Hope won and we sat for a moment in silence as we felt the power of transformation happening amongst us. Fear says, "You'll like prison better" because it assumes that restraint is the only option. Hope says, "You'll like freedom best of all" because it's eternal.” - Carla Ward

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