So I have taken on a new job at church and it is the prison clothes closet. It really is a simple task now that I have the closet organized. It really is amazing how working with prisioners is transforming my life. I really have become great friends with some people that are incarcerated. Some of these ladies I meet with on a weekly basis are amazing Christian women, who are teaching me lessons in humility and love and respect.
Imagine if you will making a mistake. A big mistake! And as soon as you make that mistake you know you are sorry. But then you get punished for that mistake. And you except the punishment and as you are dealing with the punishment, God is changing you on the inside. Making you into the person you want were designed to be. After your punishment is over you are excited to see what the world has for you now. But you realize that the world sees you as damaged goods. Your friends and family won't associate with you. You have to wear your scarlet letter everywhere now. Jobs won't hire you. People want to be your friend until they find out your past. You are having trouble at every corner. The only people associating with you were the ones that you got in trouble with in the first place. But you are trying to avoid all of them and the lifestyle that comes with them.
This is why about 70% of the people that get out of the prisons, go back. Life for ex-prisoners is hard! I mean really hard. We are talking hard to feed themselves, hard to find a job, hard to keep their paths straight. But Celebrate Recovery is trying to change that. CR Inside/Out is a program started to help prisioners once they get out of prison. Help them get the paperwork they need, like a new social security card and sometimes emergency assistance. Help them get to the food bank and help them find clothing places. Many of these people don't come out of prison to families and cars and money. Many of our CR ladies on the inside want to attend a CR on the outside to help them continue in their recovery, but can't find a ride to church. Many of them don't know where to go to get food when they are hungry. There are so many things that we can do to help prisoners, without going into prison. My ministry Corinthian Writers is starting to send cards to the prisoners once a month. We also have chosen to write letters to a couple of prisoners on a personal basis. There are so many ladies that are in for life or such long periods of time, that have no visitors. There are two ladies I know of whose lives have been changed by the Lord and will never see another day on the other side of the prison yard. Never! Yet they have faith that God has a plan for them. I have talked to many who go into the prison and say you would be shocked at some of the ladies in there. You would never know they were prisoners if you met them on the street. God is so gracious to us! Circumstances in my life, mistakes I have made, I am lucky to not be in there myself. Some times it takes one wrong turn, hang out with the wrong crowd. i don't know about you, but I feel really blessed.
So if you have a heart for those on the inside, here are somethings you can do.
Write to a prisoner. (Don't ever give them money or your address!!) Use your churches address. Stick to scriptures and encouraging words.
Know your community. Many CR's or churches with prison ministries don't always know where to send them if they are hungry or need to be clothed. Also if you know of a free health clinic in the area or discounted dental care, those are extremely helpful.
Offer your time and vehicle. Yes the idea of shuttling around a prisoner in your car can be scary. But if you and another person could spend a couple of hours, helping prisoners get to the local DHS office or food bank, it could change a persons life! It also would be nice to offer to take them to church with you. Or take them to a meeting! The advantage of CR is that you could stick around at the meeting and get benefit too! It's not just for alcoholics and addicts!!!!!
Start a clothing closet. Right now our clothing closet is for the prisoners to get clothes while they are on the inside. The minimum facility we work with lets the ladies wear regular clothes, if they have them. And they can't go off site to church or CR if they don't have regular clothing. How is that for odd?
Support your local CR or CR Inside Out! CR inside and CR Inside/Out are both self supported ministries. While many CR's have a church backing them, these ministries don't. CR Inside brings the life changing step studies to the women while they are in prison and that means they have to provide the step study books and a Bible to every one of them. This next step group at Mable Basset ( a maximum and minimum security prison for women) had over 120 ladies sign up to go through the step studies! That is amazing! But it costs around 20 dollars a lady to do this. Our church is throwing a luncheon to raise money for them. You can do that too! Many CR's that pick up prisoners are in need of badged people to help drive the vans and do step studies! Sometimes it just takes a little time and willingness.
The most important thing you can do is pray!!! Will you commit to pray for these ministries? Until you have heard the testimonies from a changed life, you will never know the impact God is using them. Pray for our people in prison! Not only the prisoners, remember Paul was a prisoner too! But the church workers that are doing the job of many with the few. Pray for the lives being changed and those on the outside struggling to stay straight.
Thank you for listening! Your prayers and thoughts are changing the lives of my friends!