Today, I went to the downtown jails. It was a tough trip, not because I didn’t enjoy encouraging some guys in need but because of the situations these men find themselves in. I was able to meet three men.
One was from the Sudan and was in maximum lockup. He has basically been on the run since he was nine, first running from a country at war and now dealing with reality of life. I have no idea the reason he is in jail. He seems like a good guy who must have made some very bad choices. At least, he made the most important choice to start a relationship with Christ.
The other two guys were 19 and 22 respectively. They both have made decisions to follow Christ. The 19 year old is looking at a sentence as much as nine years! That would represent almost half of his life if he had to serve the entire time. Obviously, he regrets his choices now and is making some new choices.
Then, we went to a Bible study with about nine other guys. Again, they were from various backgrounds and facing different situations. They were black, Hispanic, native American and white. They shared two things in common; the jail cell and their desire to follow Christ!
One of the guys testified that he is finally getting how tough it is for his family on the outside. He honestly admitted that most of the time he is concerned for his own situation. He was angry about not being able to get in touch with his wife by phone.
However, after listening to his wife talk about bills she is struggling to pay including the phone bill, he began to understand. She is trying to take care of his two boys while fighting the fight for her husband by staying in touch with his legal battle.
As I left, the lobby was filled with women and children, presumably there to either see the men in their lives or to bring those men money or other necessities. As I scanned the room, I was caught off guard by all the needs. It was obvious that these women were facing their own kind of “prison.” They may not be locked up physically but emotionally and spiritually… well, that is a different story.
I read today in Mark about the crazy, naked dude, harassed by demons who cut himself and hurt anyone who came near him. He was in a prison of lies and isolation. But, when Jesus set him free, the story changes to one of restoration and redemption. In fact, he now has a story to tell others who might not be in the same prison but definitely needed release.
That is what I thought about these men today. Many of the ones I met are more free right now than some of the folks I saw in the waiting room or for that matter some of the folks I see walking down the street each day and maybe some of the folks who show up in church every Sunday.
Prisons come in different sizes and shapes but the ones that hold captive our hearts are truly the ones to fear!