I recently had the privilege of hosting our Courage For My Life training for 27 incarcerated men. Some of the men are incarcerated for life. The majority of the men will become Peer Facilitators and lead our video-driven discipleship class with other inmates.
When I walked into the chapel, the men’s body language (crossed arms, lack of eye contact, etc.) spoke volumes. They anticipated that this training would be like most other trainings – about how I wanted “to fix them” and then leave to go back to what they perceived as my “perfect” life outside the prison walls.
I shared the first two chapters of Courage For My Life, and it was time for a break. When the men saw that we had provided lunch and snacks, the atmosphere in the room changed. They couldn’t believe that we would care about them enough to provide lunch and snacks for two days.
For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’
I saw despair in many of their eyes. They wanted to have hope, but it had been a long time since they had received a visit from a family member or a kind word from a stranger. The men, of course, know they are incarcerated – they are reminded of that fact all day, every day.
However, I reminded them that when we confess and repent of our sin, God remembers our sin no more. Others “call us” by our sin (murderer, thief, etc.), but God calls us by our name. I saw tears roll down the faces of several men.
My maternal grandfather was a pastor. He would always tell me, “Kathy – you can’t outgive God.” I am reminded of that truth every time I leave a prison. I always receive more than I could ever give away.
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