Blessed be the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Name that is above every name! Last week during church, the pastor was talking about the years when they were struggling financially and not sure if the church would make it, and it made me think; how many church mortgages does God pay every week? That’s a phenomenal thought isn’t it? He is rich, rich, rich! We need to keep in mind how large He actually is. He’s bigger than any obstacle that could possibly raise up against us. He’s bigger than any situation we find ourselves in. He’s bigger than any cloud we walk under. He’s bigger than the Olympics, bigger than the Superbowl. Bigger than any event that could draw any amount of people and the day is coming when He will demand an audience and not one person will be able to opt out of being there. It does a body good to reflect on the magnitude of an unfailing God.
I started going into the Montgomery Women’s Facility daily, Monday to Friday on October 3rd. It’s a small prison with only 300 women. It’s actually classified as a work release center although many women there are doing life or are violent offenders and will never be eligible for an outside job. As a “work release” facility they are not required to have a chapel, so there isn’t any. The staff let me know my first morning that there is no room for me, all their space is used up, and don’t ask for a room to do one-on-one counseling, any type of bible class, or anything else in. They said if I want to come into their facility on a regular basis, the only thing they can offer is for me to go into the women’s dorm and sit at a table in their dayroom each day. We Care is the prison ministry that puts volunteer chaplains in all the prisons in Alabama. When they said they needed women to volunteer to do chaplaincy down here, they failed to tell me this facility wasn’t interested in anyone coming.
I honestly thought the prison wanted a chaplain and expected them to welcome me with open arms. More than once in my walk I have found out that Christians are pretty sneaky. And honestly I love that about their ministry. They don’t care if the prison wants it or not, they know Jesus needs to be there.
The prison is a big square warehouse type building. There’s one big room where the majority of the women sleep, then the bathroom and the dayroom. The dayroom has additional bunkbeds in it, a television, microwaves, coffeepot, ice machine and 4 picnic tables. There are no floor to ceiling walls dividing these spaces. The walls go about ¾ of the way up. So sound floats freely from one area to another. The end of the table farthest from the television is where I usually sit so we don’t interrupt those watching it, but that puts us closest to the bathroom. There’s a woman in her 40’s who’s been locked up 12 years, who is learning to read. So each morning her and I spend about an hour going over words and then she reads the Bible to me. Today there was a constant symphony of flushing toilets going on and the smell of cigarette smoke as apparently someone was smoking in there. It’s like being in a henhouse. There’s chatter all around, announcements over a loud speaker as officers keep calling for different ones to report somewhere, the television being turned up to compete with all the other noise, showers running, and of course the flushing.
Each day is different. I go in from 9am to noon. On a couple of occasions I have stayed longer when in the middle of conversation and the need has been there but honestly as brave as I want to be, 3 hours is about all I can take. Yet when I drive away my heart cannot stop pleading to the Lord to move in that place. Today they told me there was a big fistfight last night. The officer who got in between them got hit, and chaos broke out. According to what I was told it was quite an ordeal. Other officers rushed in to help. There are 3 microwaves but only 1 is working. That is why the fight started. Of course there are many underlying issues, that was just the thing that lit the fuse.
A woman who is obviously gay told me she was going to start getting the injections to become a man. I have found out since then that the state has to allow the inmates to receive these injections who request them, and the state has to pay for it. I asked the staff what they were going to do with these women as they changed their gender. She said the department of corrections doesn’t know yet as it wouldn’t be safe to send them to a men’s prison, nor is it appropriate to keep them with the women. And they absolutely can’t have a prison only for these gender swapping individuals as that would violate their rights. What a mess! Remember at the beginning of this when I was talking about how big God is? He’s bigger than what this looks like. The woman thinking of getting the injections did agree to pray with me and she wrote her prayer in my journal that God would show her what is the right thing for her to do.
This morning I was talking to a woman who has come to prison twice because of drug use. She might be late 40’s. Her daughter was locked up with her last year, and now her daughter is being revoked from parole for violating the conditions of parole. She’s asked her daughter to turn herself in but her daughter is strung out on drugs again and says they’ll have to catch her. She’s praying her daughter will get arrested before she overdoses and dies. She said if her daughter gets arrested soon, at least they’ll get to spend the holidays together. This is a whole different reality from most peoples plans for the holidays.
From the beginning the Lord put it on my heart to take in a journal and ask the women to write prayers in it. I pray over it during my own prayer time with the Lord each day. Sometimes when women are walking by the table who haven’t spoken to me, I’ll hold it out and ask if they would like to write a prayer in it, most have said yes. For the past few weeks I have heard several different times about the drug use. One girl wrote in my prayer journal for the strength to avoid doing drugs there. Another wrote asking God to stop the drugs around her. There’s nothing that’s giving them incentive to change, to develop good habits of self control. They can leave with a worse drug habit than when they came in. It’s heartbreaking. Yet God is bigger.
There’s two women (inmates) who God has put it on their hearts for revival in this place. This past summer they went out in the evenings and held a revival in the prison yard, singing praise songs and giving a message and asking girls to repent. They said a handful of people gave their lives to Jesus. They’re going to do it again November 16th & 17th. One of them, every time she talks to me about God, tears roll down her face. She loves Jesus. She’s in the battle of a lifetime. I’m not sure how long she’s been locked up, it’s been awhile, nor has she told me how long she has to go, but a couple years ago the Lord called her unto Himself. When these two told me what their vision is, it made sense to me why I’m here. Not to take over their mission, but to run interference with the enemy. (I immediately wanted to start offering suggestions and the Lord told me to keep silent, this is His work, not mine.) Early this morning the Lord showed me that I needed to seek one of them out this morning and see how she was. When I found her, she was in tears. It had been a rough weekend. By the time we were finished talking, she knew her mission was still on, that God’s hand was still there, that He will be faithful to the end. God is bigger.
We have to encourage one another. We have to recount to one another His wonders. We have to remind each other that there’s a bigger battle going on than what we see. Remind each other where the victory lies, Who the Victor is, the Victorious One! He has the final say! He is our hope, our anchor, the One who holds us steady. He is steadfast, immovable and immutable. Immutable: “unchanging over time and unable to be changed; fixed, set, rigid, permanent, established.” So put that under your hat! Thank you so much for listening. See, actually, I started out with a heavy heart, but talking it out, reflecting on the greatness of God, stirred my spirit up. That’s why we must not be silent. Tell someone how great God is and how much He means to you, and unleash those rivers of living water.
Even though I’m in Alabama, mom is still the secretary, bookkeeper and chief bottle washer of this outfit, which is why all the mail goes through her, in case you’re wondering about the address still being in Fort Wayne.
Be blessed in the Name of our glorious Savior, Jesus!