Tuesday, June 18, 2013

First Lesson Down: WE not them

Its not like I know what I'm doing or anything.  I never had teaching on 'How to Serve inside a Jail Cell" or read any books like "What to Expect when You're on the Inside".  Because God was the one doing the calling, and He knew what I was or was not capable of (although I've questioned Him on that a number of times) I trusted that He would guide me along the way.  So I began, and continue to walk, with that flame in my heart that lights my way forward, regardless of my knowledge.

You might ask what was the first or the most important thing I've learned while serving inside the walls.  The answers to both questions are one and the same.  I will answer without a doubt...WE ARE ALL THE SAME, despite what we learn from our social classes, our high school clicks, or our religions.  This was demonstrated on one of my first visits to the city jail.  While I was teaching and bringing up different scriptures, it caught my attention how many scriptures many of the residents there were finishing themselves. On my way home I asked the Lord, "If these women know so many things about the bible, why are they here?  Why are they in jail?"   
The Lord quickly answered me, "How many people do you think walk around every day, even go to church, and are in their own private prison?"  That spoke volumes to me.  I began to understand that no matter our background, or our class we all struggle with ourselves, with our addicitons, with our sin....some sins are just more public and/or more "illegal" than others.  With that barricade out of the way I "listened" and learned my way into understanding my role as I ministered inside the walls. 

My world grew as I met women from every corner of society.  Because everyone in the room was wearing the same color, I had to contend with my own assumptions that "they" were all the same in the way that society had labeled them.  But in listeneing I've met women who have served years in the medical profession, facing pressures and compromising their positions; there have been women who've avoided trouble their whole lives only to find themselves unraveling in the grief of a lost husband and making uncharacteristic decisions.  I've met young mothers believing that selling drugs or their bodies was the only way to provide for their children, and others forced into prostitution by a family member.  Many women so desperate for safekeeping are willing to surrender what they know is right for what they think is love.  I don't meet many that I can't relate to in one way or another when I listen with humility and an understanding that I am capable of any of those things. 

So what I hope I've done and keep doing while inside (and outside as well) is listen to each soul and give them the message that they are created by God, given a purpose by God, and never give up on by God.  And because God loves them and hasn't forgotten them, He is sending us, an embodiment of His love, with His arms, His ears, and His voice.  And to do that we must get to know that part of Him ourselves, because we cannot share something we don't have or teach something we don't know.  But no matter how much you think you know, be ready...cause you're going to learn a whole lot more along the way!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Invitation to Go

The start is always the hardest part. What are my intentions for writing this blog?  I want to challenge those who wait for life to change to get up and move and follow God somewhere...because in serving Him and others you find change happening.  I followed Him to the city jail.  I was never a resident there, but I have come to know many of them, and knowing them has changed my life.  I always thought spiritual growth only came through the activities of the church but I am now a believer that most of it comes from following Jesus wherever He goes....and that is always outside the walls of the church building and inside the walls of another human heart.  This is about my journey through those places and what I've seen take place as I have trusted Him to lead...

I had grown up in church and had been a ho-hum Christian for a good part of my life.  I had attended church and bible studies faithfully, I served as a Sunday School teacher for several years, and I had even packed and served lunches to the needy one weekend a month.  But God was stirring inside me and I was yearning for something more. I was looking for something REAL.  Not that those things arent real or important, but I needed a spiritual challenge, something deep that would impact lives.  I felt like God wanted to reach right through my skin to touch others in meaningful ways.

In a moment I'll never forget in a small village in Honduras my small world was invaded by the cruel reality of severe poverty and hopelessness, abandonment and spiritual emptiness passed down generation after generation.  If any of you have been to a similar place, you know the questions...How could this be real?  How could people survive in these conditions, not only physically but spiritually, and not find a different way?  It was through that experience my heart was broken and my life changed.  I freely gave God permission to brand my heart with His compassion for the broken, the lost, and the forgotten.

Over several years and 2 more visits, I developed a love for the women in the village, a love that's difficult to explain, other than God.  My friendships with them were deep in spite of the limits on our communcation.  On my 3rd visit to Honduras, God asked me if I was ready to give more. I thought He was asking me to give up everything to move to the 3rd world country for the lives of my precious friends, and I immediately said "Yes, You have my heart!"  Instead He showed me a picture of the impoverished downtown area of where I live and said, "There are women just like these in your own city, and you're going to love them with that same kind of love." 

And so began my call to love the broken, the lost, and the forgotten....and it began in the city jail. 
I had no idea the change it would make in my own life, in my own walk with God.  I had no idea ministering to those behind the walls would set me free.  I have experienced faith in stepping where I could not see, protection in spite of my own ignorance, and overwhleming joy for lives that have been changed forever.  Humility has become one of my best friends, and courage has come out of hiding.  So I can't wait to share with you the riches that God has shared with me, not because I'm something special....but because He is!

I will have to backtrack somewhat because the last 4 years are rich with truths and lessons I don't want to leave out.  I'm sure my entries will be out of time sequence, but that's not what's important.  All the stories are true but names of women I have met along the way have been changed in order to protect them.  I hope you stick with me on my journey, but even more, I hope I can encourage you to find one of your own.