My conviction came from a judge without a jury and I’m as guilty as the next person.
Ok, I’m sorry if reading this has made you spit your tea out! The fact that I’m going to a Young Offenders Institute rather than a prison gives the game away that I will be entering as a visitor rather than a convicted criminal!
Regular followers of my blog will know that I have recently completed a discipleship year ( Ignite). It really was a life changing year. It would be easy to sit back after such an amazing year and simply reminisce and wish I could do it all again but I have a real sense of needing to step out in a new direction. which direction isn’t entirely clear but I have felt gentle whispers throughout the year (and beyond) about engaging in some kind of prison ministry. Even as a fresh teenager I can recall my older sister disparagingly snapping that I was one of those ‘do-gooding sorts’ that would probably do prison visiting!
Am I qualified for doing prison ministry? No
Do I know what to expect from it? No
Is there anyone going in with me? No
What can I offer? Not sure
These questions (and more besides) do trouble me and I wonder what on earth I am doing! I’m normally the sort of person that plans, researches, prepares, studies for tasks and projects. Part of me is screaming that going into prison ‘on a whim’ is reckless and completely out of character. I can also think of lots of other people who would be far better qualified than me, but trying to suppress the whispers has only made them resurface a little louder!
I’m also cheered on by the Apostle Paul. If we are talking about the most unlikely of people to carry the message of God’s love and Grace to a world beyond the Jews it would be him. God chose him (then named Saul) despite his hatred for Christians. It was an active hatred including terrorism and persecution of any Christian until his dramatic conversion on the Damascus road. Hardly the obvious choice!
Ok, I’ve not had a dramatic conversion like Saul/Paul’s but all through the Bible God can and does choose unlikely people to do things they don’t feel qualified to do (Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Jonah… etc etc…) so that should be no barrier.
I was also challenged by Jon Ortberg’s book; “If you want to walk on water you’ve got to get out of the boat”. It’s based on Matthew 14:25-32 and the faith of Peter that took him to get out of his boat during a storm and walk towards Jesus on the water. It challenged me to consider the potential that is outside of my comfort zone and how much I truly trust God.
So, this week I’m testing out those gentle whispers. Whether prison ministry is the final destination or just a step along another road remains to be seen. It could be more a case of walking into a lions den than walking on water! It’s both terrifying and exciting. I realise I could well sink, but there again I could just walk!…