John 8:36 – So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (NRSV)
On a work-related trip to the Caribbean, I opted, with five others, to visit a local maximum security male prison. I had always wanted to do this as long as I could remember, because I have considerable respect for prison ministry.
We set off in two vehicles, one driven by the prison chaplain, a Presbyterian minister. On arriving at the prison, we went through the initial security protocol and waited at the reception area for final approval to enter the prison. Although our host, the chaplain, explained that he had already been granted such approval, it took another forty-five minutes of waiting before we were finally led through two more security points to the building where some prisoners were gathered and engaged in Christian fellowship, led by one of the prison guards.
We introduced ourselves, explaining the purpose for our visit to the complex. Each prisoner did the same, briefly describing the nature of his crime. We listened as three prisoners gave their testimonies and explained how their lives had assumed a new meaning since they had decided to follow Jesus. After song and prayer, our group led in singing three songs, sharing some comforting messages, and closing with prayer. For a moment, we forgot that we were among prisoners, and worshipped freely.
I also had a brief but spiritually meaningful encounter with one of three French-speaking African prisoners caught while trying to enter the country illegally. They were waiting to be re-united with their loved ones and for a return to normal life.
As we left the prison, we could not help but be thankful for the many men and women who work in prison ministry around the world. Prison chaplains help to bring hope, dignity, and spiritual healing.
Despite our sadness, we wanted our new friends to know that we would always remember them and their families in our prayers and that they had impacted our lives in a most profound way. Their waiting would not be in vain if they put their trust in God.
Today's challenge is to take seriously this command in Scripture:
Hebrews 13:3 – Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. (NRSV)
Prayer: Gracious Lord, we thank You for prison chaplains and for all those who, by their selfless actions, bring hope and comfort to the weak. Fill us with Your Holy Spirit to choose compassion and understanding towards all Your creation. We ask for your blessings on all prisoners; strengthen them, their families, friends, and communities. Amen.
Listen to this devotional