by Christy Hoagland
Love….it seems like a common theme in the posts I’ve written but it is anything but common. God’s love for me, for the men we minister to, and the people we meet continues to overwhelm me. The Gospel overwhelms me – God’s love shown to me, to us by sending His Son to pay for my sin, your sin. This is Real Love.
The month of October was intense, we were in 8 different prisons around the state and God poured out His love in the institutions, drew at least 87 men to Himself, and strengthened the faith of countless more. I could probably write a hundred stories but I will simply tell a few.
At Ozark Correctional Center in mid-October we held a Yard Event with some musicians, James preaching, and Johnny testifying…12 men surrendered their lives to Christ! And, we had pictures taken during the event, unfortunately we were not able to have any with offenders but we are grateful nonetheless.
The following weekend we traveled to St. Joe, MO to do two prison concerts on Saturday. We brought some special guests and saw several more lives come to the Lord.
On Sunday, James, Johnny and I held a service in Maryville. Several offenders from other prisons we minister in had been transferred there for treatment. It was so good to see them still standing strong in their faith and hearing their stories how God is using them. The service was incredible, it certainly wasn’t about anything we did, God was revealing Himself, His truth to these men and 16 came to faith in Jesus. The chaplain cried, we cried, the men cried…we were in awe of God’s power and His marvelous grace. We’ve been invited back to take part in a baptism service for these new lives at the end of this month…wow, God! Thank You!
A few days later and we were back at Algoa Correctional for a baptism service. 27 men were baptized! Several different ministries all came together for this baptism, God’s family. A couple testimonies from the men being baptized really touched me. A large black man shared how he had been searching for real love; he had encountered carnal love, puppy love, lust, etc, etc but he had finally experienced real love in the person of Jesus Christ, in God sending His Son for him. Another gentleman had been in the military and had done two tours in Iraq. When he came home he was having trouble dealing with the things he had done and his life began to spiral out of control and he ended up in prison. It was through surrendering his life to Christ that set him free from his past and gave him peace. One man sat in the baptistry and just wept. So many more miracles and stories, each one precious and full of God’s grace.
On the last Sunday evening in October we drove to MECC in Pacific, MO. These men were so hungry for the Word, for love, for hope and they were so very sweet, they applauded after every single song, prayer, the reading of scripture, everything! And at the end of the night 9 men found real love, real hope through Jesus Christ. The chaplain invited us to have a quarterly spot…how good is God!
Our regular services throughout the month were just as miraculous, 7 salvations at the maximum security prison in Jefferson City and many more at Algoa, KCRC, and Boonville. God’s LOVE, His GOSPEL is being proclaimed and lives are being changed.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.” 1 John 4:7
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
I don’t know why God has called me to prison ministry but He has given me a special love for these offenders. I want them to experience “real love” through a relationship with Jesus Christ. I want them to know that I love them and that there are others that do too. And I want them to love others and share their new found faith, His Love with those around them.
Who are you sharing real love with today?