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!