Are you to the age yet where you’re thinking what else can God possibly do with my life? Well, fret no longer my friend, He is no respecter of age or person! This is good news! He is an awesome God who takes what is old and remakes it. “And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.” Jeremiah 18:4 NKJV. God never runs out of options of what to do with us because He is a creator; The Creator, the ultimate remaker and reshaper. So put down the remote and cancel your order for that body-shaping girdle. There’s hope for you! Put yourself in the hands of the One who made you and come into agreement with heaven that you will be remade into the vessel He has predestined you to be at this stage of your life. Even trees, as they age and fall down, become the nest/home for animals on the ground, or firewood to keep people warm, then ultimately they decompose and become nutrition for the soil. At every stage of its life, the tree has purpose. If you’re reading this, then no, you are not ready for the compost pile. Your easy chair does not receive any life giving nutrition from you sitting in it. Although it seems like a perfect fit, the two of you were not destined to drift off into eternity together. “But now O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay and you our potter, and we all are the work of Your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8)
The ministry I will be under in Alabama when I go to the Montgomery Women’s Facility as chaplain is the We Care Prison Ministry. I was watching one of their videos this morning about a young chaplain in one of the men’s prisons down there. I met this young man 2-3 years ago when we were doing the annual Renew Hope prison ministry in Alabama and I thought, “they are going to eat this young boy alive.” He’s not only young, but seemed naïve. He’s never been exposed to the criminal lifestyle and was raised in a good home with a Mennonite background. I’m not sure exactly when he became an official chaplain but at the time when I met him, he wasn’t one, so it’s been within the last year or two. In this video, he’s explaining how he was walking down a row of cellblocks. In one of them was a man with his head down. He started to walk past the cell when the man walked up to the bars, stuck his arms out through the bars, hands reaching, and said, “I need Jesus in my life.” He prayed for the man to receive Jesus and a few months ago, the man was baptized. The young chaplain had never spoken to the man previously and had no intention of speaking to him at that moment. But God arranged it for a man who’s heart was crying out for Him and for a man who was willing to be available, to cross paths at exactly the moment of divine intervention. We may not know why we are where we are sometimes, what we should be doing, but as long as your heart is saying yes to Him, He will direct your steps.
Two weeks ago, the crusade at the Northpoint Men’s Prison in Burgin, Kentucky went great. On the third day, 5 men were baptized. We have some pictures from previous years when dad was baptizing men in the same baptistry. He went in there every year for several years. Going there without him was bittersweet. I’m so grateful for all he taught me. And especially grateful for the cause of the cross. Sometimes it seems like our words are pretty small compared to the situation these men are in. One man there told me he’s been locked up 28 years and won’t meet the parole board for 5 more years, in 2023. Even then there’s no guarantee he’ll be released. The parole board could say they’ll interview him in another 5 years after that. He gave his life to Christ in 1996. He was carrying the biggest Bible I’ve ever seen an inmate carry, (it must have been extra large print). I was amazed at his endurance and confession of Christ in a seemingly unchanging situation. How many times have we been praying through a storm and after a few weeks or months get exasperated when God doesn’t seem to notice? We have no idea how He’s capable of teaching them to walk in freedom and to pour Himself into them in the midst of darkness.
Last weekend I ended up in an Alabama’s men’s prison. It was totally unplanned on my part. Patty and I were down in Montgomery looking for an apartment for me before my move there next month and dad’s previous ministry partner, Dan Utz, invited me to go in with him. The Alabama prison living conditions are much worse than Indiana or Kentucky. It is especially hard to minister in there. There’s no air conditioning. In a
lot of the prisons, there’s 200 to 300 inmates sleeping in one room and that’s how this one was. Their uniforms were filthy from sweat and the dry dirt that’s always blowing around. Someone paid for a chicken bar-b-que
dinner for each inmate, including macaroni and cheese, cole slaw and a desert. This was a Big Deal! That’s some good ground watering before the seed planting! After their meal, we had a sound system set up in the yard, where Dan and his wife did music and I shared my testimony. Off in the distance was a rainbow coming straight down from heaven to the ground. No rain in sight. It’s not our words that will save them. Not the songs. Not even the chicken. It’s His mercy. It’s His desire to draw them to Himself. We can’t offer them any type of physical freedom. We can only be a conduit for His love to flow through and give them the spiritual freedom that their spirits are longing for. Who the Son sets free is free indeed! It’s that upward freedom that can’t be contained by razor wire or concrete walls. The type of freedom that man can’t quench. The mercy of God that doesn’t look at dirty clothes or hardened hearts. For only He knows what is in the heart of a man. Don’t judge a situation by what you see with your eyes. It may look like it’s pointless but just like when that young chaplain was going to walk on by that cell, you never know when a person’s heart is crying out to know the Savior.
In the wee hours of the morning before going into that prison, I became really sick. I was in the bathroom alternating between hugging the toilet and laying on the floor because I was too weak and in too much pain to make it back to my bed. My sister heard me and was outside the bathroom praying. I finally made it to where she could pray with me, and then back to the bed. I took my Bible into the bed, opened it at random and put my arm on it, my whole body was wracked with pain, I had no idea what was going on, but said, “Your Word has to heal me.” When I woke a few hours later, the spasms in my back and stomach were gone, and my breathing was regular, (at one point I was having trouble drawing any air in). I looked to see what scripture I had been holding onto. It was Psalm 37. Some of the highlights are; “Trust in the Lord”, “Delight yourself in the Lord”, “Commit your way to the Lord”, “Rest in the Lord”, “Do not fret”, “Wait on the Lord”, “He is their strength in time of trouble”, “He shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in Him”. How wonderful is the word of God! A few hours before that I was sure I would be spending the day in bed, if not in the hospital, and knew there was no way I would be going into that prison. But we serve a God who’s ways are higher than our ways and whose thoughts are higher than our thoughts! His Word is more powerful than a double-edged sword! He slays our enemy even while we rest. Throughout the day, my stomach was feeling pretty delicate so I only ate crackers and a peanut butter sandwich. Even though God healed me, what if it hit me again…. I kept thinking it wouldn’t matter if I went to that prison or not… We weren’t scheduled to go in until 3pm, they already had music and a speaker planned and I was a last minute add-on….it didn’t make sense to me, but I had been asked and said yes, and dad never backed out on a commitment. By the time the music started, it was obvious the speaker wasn’t coming. No one knew why, he just didn’t show up. We simply need to be available. It didn’t make sense to me, but God had a plan. I was thinking of that rainbow this morning in the background behind the men and was reading in Ezekiel at that moment. The scriptures that stood out to me were, “Behold all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine.” (Ezekiel 18:4), “Repent and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin”. (Ezekiel 18:30), “For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God, “Therefore turn and live!.” (Ezekiel 18:32) How can we not go?
All this brings us to what I originally started out with, the Potter and the clay. So while Patty and I were on an apartment hunting adventure (oh the stories I could tell right here J), we got a phone call and the Lord had a house for me that wasn’t even on our radar. A man from the We Care office in Atmore, AL, had contacted a chaplain in Montgomery to let him know I was in need of housing. He at first said he didn’t know of anything, but then later remembered that he knew a woman… this is how the family of God works. Long story short, she has a house that really isn’t ready to rent out, that she and her husband had just recently moved from, so recent that their 3 dogs and 1 cat are still living there, but she said I am just the type of person she’d like to have in there! So, the house comes fully equipped with furniture, pets, and a Friday night prayer meeting, in a safe neighborhood, that under normal circumstances we could not have afforded. With utilities included, I will be in a three-bedroom house paying less than what I would have paid for a one-bedroom apartment in a shady neighborhood. And by shady I don’t mean tree lined.
At age 55, I would not have seen myself embarking on an adventure as a prison chaplain. A position for which I have had no training, and in which there is no one on site to train me. But He is the potter. If I were to look at my own limitations and abilities I would never leave this apartment. But His word says, it is “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts”. (Zechariah 4:6) It’s not trusting in who we are, but in Who He Is. This is a total makeover of life as I know it. “But now, O Lord, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all we are the work of Your hand.” (Isaiah 64:8) “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Eph 2:10). I guess I could say I have nothing to offer them. “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”(2 Cor 4:7) I could write two more pages on why I am too foolish or too weak, but that would only be my words and not His for He says, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty.” Or possibly one could argue that I am going all alone, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) Don’t you love God’s word. He has an answer for everything.
One of my favorite events is coming up in September. Donut days! We’ll spend the day making homemade donuts out of a food truck that are then given to the men with their supper meal. Afterwards we do a chapel service with music, testimonies, and a message. Each man gets 2 donuts. On our first day last year we made more than 2500 donuts! It’s a lot of work in the Alabama heat, at least 10 hrs per day, but sooo worth it!
Thank you all so much for your donations towards the Alabama trip. I am so blessed by your love and support to this ministry. We are one family with one ministry, serving the One and Only living God. “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ Jesus, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor 5:18-19) Let’s share His word and His love at every possible opportunity! Be blessed in the Name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Sept 7-9; Ladies Retreat, Liquid Church, North Webster Lake, IN
Sept 10; Faith Based Mentoring
Sept 18-22; COPE Conference, Ridgecrest, North Carolina
Sept 24; Donaldson Correctional, Bessemer, AL (Donut Days J)
Sept 25; Limestone Correctional, Harvest, AL (Donut Days J)
Sept 26; Possibly Birmingham Work Release (pending approval) (Donut Days J)
Sept 28; Hamilton Correctional, Hamilton, AL (Donut Days J)
*I’m not exactly sure of the date of my first day in the Montgomery Women’s Facility. It will definitely be after the mens prisons we go into the last week of Sept, so probably the week of October 1st.