I shared my story last week with 100 inmates and several workers at Coffee Creek Women’s Correctional Institute. It was an absolute blast and I can’t wait to do it again. Speaking at a prison is different than sharing my story at a church, because it has the potential to be a bit more dangerous. For instance: I wanted to wear a scarf with my attire but thought, “Um…not smart. A scarf can easily be turned into a weapon I could be strangled with. Better not.” Sometimes I do crazy things and then realize afterward the magnitude of what I just did, but it doesn’t dissuade me from getting my hands dirty for the kingdom’s cause. It’s actually quite the adrenaline rush, you should try it.
My husband, two girls and our puppy joined me for the drive there. It was really neat for them all to feel involved in what the Lord is doing through this ministry. It took us almost 5 hours to get there and I needed to find a place along the way to get ready, so I did my makeup in the car and performed a wardrobe change in a Denny’s restroom along the way. I also felt the need to make a change of heart, because this audience I would soon be speaking with was important to me and I wanted to be used mightily to give them hope. I wanted something fresh for them, not a recited testimony. I wanted to tell them everything the Lord wanted me to say, so I asked my friends to pray over this event, and I surrendered my words, fears and hopes to Him.
About an hour before our arrival, The Lord gave me the song “Freedom Reigns” by Jesus Culture. It’s based off the scripture, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom”. Using my smartphone, I found the song on YouTube, put in my ear buds, cranked the volume and proceeded to lose it (don’t worry, my husband was driving). My emotions overtook me as I pictured these women behind bars, some having lost their kids or grand kids to foster care or adoption. Many lost their homes, jobs, marriages, kids and even their teeth. From the outside looking in, they appear to have nothing…they are the shame of society…marked for life. BUT Jesus is in that place and therefore they are able to experience the freedom only He offers. He loves them so dearly, so deeply and He imparted that same compassionate love for them into my heart as I listened to that song.
The closest personal experience I could relate to imprisonment was the year and a half I spent in rehab nearly a decade ago. Normally when I talk about my rehab experience I gloss over it and only share some of what the Lord taught me there. I don’t often share about the hard times in rehab because of the painful memories of being without my two young boys for so long, but I felt compelled to be vulnerable with these women.
The realization of what I was about to do hit hard when we pulled into the parking lot and saw the looped barbed wire atop the fence which encircled the compound. My daughters were very nervous for me, one of them said “please don’t die in there,” as her eyes filled up with tears. My family prayed over me before I walked through the gates and out of their sight, into the cold-looking, steel-doored, concrete fortress. Nervousness set in as I awaited my turn through the metal detector. Through thick, shatter-proof glass I saw for the first time some of the women I would be speaking to.
“Okay, Lord here we go. Have your way through me.” My heart felt like it was about to pound out of my chest as the adrenaline started to pump through my veins.
Listen to this song, so you can hear what I heard and picture these same women.
TO BE CONTINUED on Wednesday……….
“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Hebrews 13:3