by Christy Hoagland
Our team had a pretty incredible week, 4 services in 4 different prisons in a span of 7 days; we are scheduled for 18 prison events/services in the month of October…isn’t God amazing?!? Here’s week one…
On Sunday night as we were getting ready to begin, I was singing a song as offenders were entering the chapel and I looked up to see Johnny talking with a man we knew from another prison. I finished the song and excused myself to go to him. He had left and gone home only to return a short time later. He was crying, ashamed to come to our service but wanted to see us all the same, to which I was glad. I just held onto his hand and told him I loved him. He just kept saying he wasn’t strong enough to which I replied ‘Jesus is’. The power of addiction had overtaken him and he had yielded to it. He will be out soon and we encouraged him to apply to a men’s christian life program so he can grow in his relationship with Jesus and be surrounded with men who will love him and keep him accountable. I was heartbroken for him but thankful he came to the chapel. The Holy Spirit drew 8 men to receive Christ this night…wow!
A revival is breaking out at KCRC, our Tuesday night service has quadrupled (or more) in size and men’s lives are being changed. There is a boldness there that is amazing to witness, several offenders can be found in the hallways asking men to come to church, one man hand writes scriptures on tiny pieces of paper and hands them out while inviting them to church, some come and some do not but most take the slip of paper containing God’s Word. God is on the move!
Friday night was remarkable, it began with something simple. We had noticed that one of our regular guys hadn’t come to service the past few weeks, we asked about him and since there was still a few minutes until the service started one of the offender chapel workers said they would go talk to him, we told him to tell him we missed him. It turns out he had just gotten lazy…can’t we relate?…he came in with a smile, he just needed a nudge, accountability, and for someone to tell him they cared. The Holy Spirit was moving throughout the entire evening and during my first session of songs I was overwhelmed and tears fell, even my own… Later as Johnny was speaking he said “I am not ashamed to say I Love Jesus Christ!” and one by one men began loudly exclaiming “I love Jesus Christ!” until they were overlapping. It was so amazing! And at the end of the service, 6 men gave their lives to Jesus Christ!
And then there’s Saturday…we were invited to hold a yard event at Potosi Correctional Center, a maximum security prison. Most of these men (99%) will never leave and some of these men are on death row. The offenders had to sign up to come to the event and it was open to everyone, even those on death row. Up until six months before their execution date they are able to be among the general population in the prison. I was thankful for this news, I was eager to see God work and change lives, to give hope and to give these men something to live for. Jesus is so worth living for and even dying for.
I shook many hands and looked into the faces of murderers and saw their victims behind their eyes and my heart broke for both. This encounter affected me in a different way than any had before, but I still loved them and so does Jesus, so much so that He gave His life for them too. It rained on us and we brought our equipment into the gym, Johnny shared his story and two men responded and surrendered their lives…their life sentences to Jesus. Then I sang with them, acapella, it was precious.
We all have something to live for when we belong to Jesus, this life of abundance isn’t excluded for those outside the razorwire, it is for the least of these and although they will never be outside the prison walls and fences they have something to live for…eternity with our King, our Savior and peace for the present, freedom from the past, a mission to share His love, His Gospel with those around them and to Glorify Him.
“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Psalm 50:15