Yesterday, Lindsey and I had the privilege of speaking at the Billy Moore Prison in Tyler, Texas. This was our first time to share.
I’ve been to prisons to visit folks who are incarcerated, but never to speak. I didn’t know what to expect.
Over a year ago, I began trying to get connected and involved with Prison Fellowship. I love what they do. They are amazing! It has taken sometime, but all is always in his perfect timing.
For some reason, I have always been drawn to the uniquely marginalized communities. My heart seems to ache for those facing the long term pains of brokenness. Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware that many have earned their place in that dismal cell. Some of them are men and women whose choices have led to the most horrific and destructive of outcomes. Some have created endless torment for families and victims. And I will always stand in the gap praying healing for their victims. Choices have consequences. And yet, are these are the folks Jesus wants fed. He is such a lover of our soul.
But many, are products. They have been critically damaged by a broken family. They are victims of abuse, crime, drugs and dysfunction that paved the way for their life of crime. Some seemed destined for a life behind bars at an early age. Hopelessness entered their lives long before their sentence.
Again, I’m not excusing their actions whatsoever. My heart bleeds for those who now wear a label called victim and are living in a continual state of suffering. They didn’t deserve such agonizing affliction. Why does this world have to be so damaging? We underestimate the power of the fall.
But here’s the reality of God. He sees the victim haunted with memories of an unjust crime and he longs to bring restoration to them. And then, he sees the the criminal, now a prisoner, and he wants that same restoration for them as they pay the debt for their crime. We have no ability to reconcile the two, but God does.
Yesterday I had the honor of sharing my story. Two years ago, I never thought I’d be able to rise from the ashes of my own grief. But he’s carried me to new heights. He is faithful.
The prison wasn’t what I expected and not what I have seen. I usually feel a dark, oppressive vibe in prisons. But this was different.
The men flooded into the place they call church. Yep, it looks very different from our church, but nonetheless, it is church to them. Maybe 150 men one after the other filed in with bibles, notebooks and an eagerness for a Jesus.
Did they ever worship! It was led by the inmates. It was beautiful. No lights, cameras, big screens, nothing. It was men in their prison whites seeking more of Jesus. They crave it. They are starved for it. They are literally in a place and position where Jesus is all the have and they are clinging to him tightly.
I got to pray with many. Heartbreaking stories and pains of grown men who’ve taken a wayward path. They are afraid. They know what “jailhouse” faith is. They know there is a world out there ready to eat them up. They know there is an enemy at the prison gates waiting to complete what he started. And they understand full well their vulnerability and frailty.
So they came. One after another they came forward to receive prayer. They want Jesus more than anything and yet understand the comforts the world brings. And that terrifies them.
They have choices in the world. Choices to get lazy. Choices to isolate. A choice to jump off the narrow path for momentary pleasure. The choice of crime. And they are scared because they know where that path leads. They don’t want it.
We need to be better lovers of the flock. And the flock is messy. It doesn’t always look like those sitting in the pews. But if we, as believers, are doing our job, then it shouldn’t. These messed up, broken, hurting people should be out aim. We should seek them out and bring them in.
We are called to love, not judge. We are called to serve, not question. We are called to be Jesus in skin. We are called to the least of these. We are called to the prisoner.
Thank you Prison Fellowship for all you do. And thank you to my new friends, Malea, Dave, Cheryl and Audrey. I look forward to many more visits.
92Lindsey Alcosiba, Rachel Alcosiba and 90 others