Unworthy Servants

by Christy Hoagland

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” Luke 17:10

We, the Sing for the King Ministry team, is often thanked for serving the Lord.  I understand that you want to thank others for pouring into you and who are pointing you to the Savior, I have often thanked my Pastor for speaking truth into my life.  I think it’s a natural thing to thank those who are being obedient to God’s call on their lives but we are just doing what we are commanded to do…sharing Jesus.

I am constantly praying for a spirit of humility, I know that God gives grace to the humble and I want His grace over me more than anything else.  I can do nothing on my own anyway! I want to be used by Him and I can’t be used if I am prideful or boastful in myself.  None of the miraculous things we see is because of us or anything that we have done; God has granted us an amazing gift…a front row seat to His saving power, to His divine work.  We have seen many men and women come to faith in Christ and often times we only get to see that first transformation.  But once in a while we are allowed the honor to see beyond that first miracle and have the privilege to glimpse a little more of God’s marvelous work in the lives of those He saves.  After all, Philippians 1:6 says “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  Here’s one of those miracles, we received this message recently:

“Happy Greetings! I just wanted to share something with you. While I was at Algoa I adored and anticipated Sing for the King each Friday. The difference the Lord made in my life through you and your ministry there continues! So I also was in a step-program. One of my sponsees wrote me last week. He told me that after I left (just 30 days ago) he finally surrendered and went to your Friday night service. And this passed week, he was BAPTIZED!!!!!!!!!!!!!! He is now alive and happy and sharing what has happened in his life with others. What a long way God has brought him from where he once was just a few months ago. When I got to Algoa and decided to hit meetings and chapel every chance I got, I had no idea what God was about to do. I was absolutely NOT going to open up to another guy in grays. I was not going to share deep personal stuff with another fellow felon. Well, you see God knew me. Better than I knew myself. And he knows that in everything I have to go all in or let it go. And I did. I worked the steps. I became the secretary and a sponsor.  I became vulnerable and willing. And God softened my heart and gave me eyes to see others like he sees them. Beautiful. I couldn’t help but look at this young man and see God loved him and he needed to know it. That I had something in my life that was bubbling up out of me and I could not keep it to myself. I found the way to break every chain. The way to conquer fear, cuz it’s a liar. From victim to victorious. I shared just the right portion as I let the Lord lead me, telling him about some very personal things from my past. Things the devil used to shame me. To hide it. To isolate. To go full on introvert mode. Well, I took the chance. I shared my story. And that night he went to the step-program with me and within days his transformation was obvious. After my moving on, he continued working the program, he continued sharing his own story. He finally accepted God and now has the blessing of sharing it with many others. He is now a sponsor, he is now blessed with the mercy and grace that only comes from Jesus Christ, he attends chapel, he is baptized, he is alive…for the first time in his life. He is impacting other guys in gray, he told me that many guys come to meetings and chapel now (in just 30 days!!!!!!) because of him and his willingness to share with them. God poured into my life. It overflowed into his. And now it flows into many others. Guys in gray. Thank you. I feel God want me to share with you many things. So much is happening in my life, at times I have trouble believing it. Man, it’s just amazing what he is doing. I’m refusing to let doubt, strange emotions, etc control me. Instead I am standing on the promises of God. The TRUTH. I am reflecting on what he has done for me. Who am I to discount any of that? God loved ME, a guy who was once in gray, that HE came to earth as Jesus Christ and walked into his own story and died on the cross, bleeding out to purify a guy like me. For all the men and women he dreamed up and created. So that we, mere human beings, some of us even going gray (or bald hee hee) can be redeemed. We have hope. We have grace. We have mercy. No longer slaves. I am a child of God. And the joy that floods my soul I just cannot contain. He saved me from the cancer of myself. He rescued me from a pit. He healed my body, my mind and my spirit. As he continues to reveal to me, it just spills out, His love, His sweetness, His Kingship, it envelopes me and I just gotta put a stamp on it and send it out to others. Cool thought: God works in each life at just the right speed. For some it is lightning fast like email, text, messaging, and others it is more like snail mail. Doesn’t matter. When the student is ready, the teacher walks in. I love you. I love your ministry. And I love how the love of Jesus, of God himself flows from your hearts. And it BREAKS EVERY CHAIN! In church when they sing some of the songs we sang at Algoa I can’t help but tear up and wanna shout VICTORY!” – Former Offender, D.

I hope this encourages you to step out boldly for Jesus, the One who saved you, and share His story and yours…how He has changed you.  He wants to use you, for His Glory, for His Kingdom!  And just maybe, He will give you a sweet glimpse into His remarkable handiwork…we cannot even imagine it!

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 1 Corinthians 2:9

2017 Year in Review

by Christy Hoagland

I don’t think I can adequately sum up all the beautiful and marvelous things God has done and allowed us to see over this past year.  He is so good and so gracious and we are so blessed and thankful to be able to be part of His story.

2017YearinReview_public

Our team could sit and talk for hours about the lives we’ve seen Jesus change – the brokenness made whole, the unloved loved, the captives freed!  It is only through the Power of the Gospel that any of this is possible, only HE is mighty to save, redeem, change!!!

We are most thankful to God for this wonderful work He has called us to and we are thankful for you as well – our supporters, our prayer warriors, our groupies…this is all for Him, about Him, and through Him and we thank you for allowing Him to use you to be a special part of this ministry.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  Matthew 19:26

From Strangers to Family

by Christy Hoagland

On Friday afternoon I received a phone call asking if we would visit a man’s dying father, his son was worried about his spiritual condition and desperately wanted someone to tell him about Jesus.  He was in a hospital not far from us and it was on our way to our prison service that night so I told the caller that we would be glad to go see him.

We arrived at the hospital and asked the woman at the front desk for (we’ll call him Bob).  The woman told us he wasn’t in their system…we could’ve just walked out, maybe there was a mix up by the caller or maybe he had already passed…but the woman got up and said she would go check and quickly went down the hall.  She returned and told us he was in the ER.  We walked to the ER and asked for Bob and they let the three of us right in (I thought that was odd), we found his room and it was packed with his family.  I walked in and said, “Bob? I know you don’t know me” and he said “No, I don’t”.  I told him we had been sent to see him and by whom and the entire family minus one daughter immediately got up and let us have the room with him.  As they were filing out the doctor came in and told him more about his condition, he would see the radiation oncologist on Monday and that he could go home today but to come back if he got worse.  He left and then each of us began telling him about the Gospel.  Bob said he knew there was a God but that he was not a Christian, he had not given his life to Christ and he didn’t want to. He said he didn’t want to be fake.  As we talked about the hope, forgiveness, and love that Jesus gives I felt like he was shutting down and wanted no part of what was being said.  In my mind I was saying “the Spirit is not drawing him”, we will just have to pray with him and be on our way and hope that a seed was planted and would take root.  The doctor came in again and told Bob that he had a little bit of good news for him, that he needed to stay in the hospital and begin treatment and that things didn’t look quite as dire as before.  The doc then left and James turned to Bob and said “let Christy tell you a quick story”, I was going to tell him about my mom and the miracles God has done through her battle with cancer.  Bob said “I don’t need to hear anymore”…for a split second I thought he had really had enough and was going to kick us out…but instead he said “that’s the first positive news I’ve had in my whole life”.  God became real to him for the first time in his life.  Johnny asked him if he wanted to give his life to Christ and Bob said “Yes, I do”.  He prayed to receive Christ, we were all crying and thanking God for the Spirit’s mighty move upon Bob.  His daughter through tears was looking heavenward and saying thank you, thank you.  We all hugged Bob and Bob even kissed me on the cheek.  In a matter of probably 30 minutes strangers became family, walls were torn down, strongholds were destroyed and the Holy Spirit moved into another heart and life.  Bob’s daughter hugged us tightly and said “that was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen, I gotta go tell mom!”

Ezekiel 36:26 says “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”  And this is exactly what happened before our very eyes, it was one of the most miraculous things I’ve ever witnessed.  What an honor it is to tell about Jesus and watch Him work. Go tell someone about Him today…you might just see a heart of stone turn into a heart of flesh.

Brand New Lives

by Christy Hoagland

“I’m brand new?!?” was exclaimed over and over by a young man that had just prayed to receive Christ.  Tears were rolling down his cheeks as three other offenders who had just prayed that same prayer embraced him.  Four lives changed forever by the Gospel of Jesus.  Let me give some backstory regarding this “brand new” man… he had been coming to our KCRC service but then missed a week, another gentleman asked for prayer for him, he was worried about him especially since he hadn’t come to service.  Then Tuesday came, with the very first song I noticed God already moving, particularly on this young man.  Later during our Bible study another gentleman talked about how thankful he is for God’s unconditional love and that grasping God’s love has been a process and hard to wrap his mind around.  The entire night was pretty incredible and at the altar call in a tiny concrete block classroom 4 men became brand new!  I’ll never get over it, what a precious gift it is to share the love of Jesus and watch the Spirit draw people to Himself and change them right before our eyes.

The following night a 15 year old girl at Johnny’s church brought him $60, she wanted to sow into our prison ministry, she had wanted it to be more but this is all she could bring. How precious, what a blessing!

Friday…at the start of this week’s service one of our chapel workers, an offender, told us about a young man that had been at ACC for a year now but had never come to a Friday night service yet.  This man had been searching, he had been dabbling in Wicca and other religions and the night before had come to another Christian service at the chapel.  The chapel worker told me that he had talked with him earlier in the day and asked him to come to tonight’s service and he agreed.  He sat rather stoic but still introduced himself when the welcome of newcomers was given, I couldn’t tell if he was singing along with the other men but I just continued to pray for him, that the Spirit would draw him.  When Johnny got up to speak he was giddy, he introduced the man that had come and said that he couldn’t wait until the end of the service to give his life to Jesus, he wanted to do it right then!  God…You are marvelous!  At the end of the night he came to me and I congratulated him on his new relationship with Christ, he said he had been reading Romans today and he knew he needed Jesus.  Just wow…the power of God’s Word, the Spirit’s leading…wow…

I’m so grateful for these opportunities, we all are (the Sing for the King team) and because of Jesus’ calling and people sending, even 15 year old girls, and so many of your prayers we are able to go and give the Gospel and see its power remove strongholds, break down walls, and make men new.  Thank You for praying, for sending, but most of all, thank You Jesus for saving.

Jesus, hug me for long time…

Johnny shared a story at JCCC the other night…

I went to a football game with my family and over the intercom they announced that some cars were parked illegally and needed to be moved.  My daughter’s car was one of those so I said I would go move it for her before it got towed.  My grandson, Nick, asked to go and I told him “no, that it was too far and that my back hurt and I wouldn’t be able to carry him” it was a couple city blocks away and he was too little to walk the whole way.  He persisted that he could make it all the way there and back by himself so I relented and allowed him to tag along.  On the way back he began to tire and said “Grandpa, could you carry me?”  I said “No, Nick, I told you, my back hurts, I can’t”.  Then he said “Could you just pick me up and hug me for a long time?” (like all the way back to our seats)…  That was my old life, many times I thought I could go way out there (drugs, illegal activity, etc) and have the strength to get back on my own…without anyone’s help and I couldn’t.  Like Nick, I needed someone to pick me up and carry me back…Jesus did that for me.  When I lifted my hands to heaven and asked Jesus to carry me back, to help me, change me (hug me for a long time), He did just that.  He’s been hugging me for a very long time now and isn’t going to let me go.  He wants to carry us, to hug us for a very long time, for eternity; all we need to do is ask.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

Families and Felons

By Christy Hoagland

We take prayer requests in our prison services and one of the greatest desires of the incarcerated is reconciliation with their families.  They long to be restored to the ones they love, they ones they belong to.   And they need that connection with the outside world, they yearn for their forgiveness, their love, and to be included in the family they left behind.  This isn’t a matter of being worthy, this is a matter of grace.  There’s not much one can do behind the razorwire to earn trust.  They try with words and they pray.

I think when these men come face to face with their sin and repent and turn to Jesus, their eyes are opened and their hearts broken for their people, their precious families that have to struggle and wade through life without them.  They see the grace that Jesus offers to them and it gives them hope.  Because if Jesus can forgive them, maybe, just maybe someone else can too.  And so they pray, they ask for prayer, and they wait… longing for a phone call, a letter, a visit… just a glimpse of mercy from their loved ones.  We’ve seen it happen for some, a picture received of a grandchild, a daughter… a long awaited letter.  And for the rest, they’re still waiting.  And if we are honest, some will wait forever.  Sunday night at JCCC, the maximum security prison, (where men seldom go home and the ones that do have spent most of their lives there), we took prayer requests and a gentleman asked for reconciliation with his family… if he had any family still alive… he didn’t even know… he’s still waiting.

The other side? Families outside the razorwire are still waiting too.  We led a service at a sweet little church recently and a woman asked us to pray for her husband who was incarcerated, she was very broken, weeping over not having him there with her.  Her prayer was for him to be encouraged, for Christians to rise up around him and help him stand strong.  And so we prayed, and she waits.  Prison ministry is not just for the ones on the inside, at practically every service we’ve had the privilege to be a part of we have encountered families that have been affected by a loved one being in prison.  Another prayer request from offenders… pray for our families, our children, who have to carry on without us.

Some might say they don’t deserve to be restored to their families, that their families are better off without them, that they are getting what they deserve.  We understand that there are consequences for our actions and they are indeed paying for them but we are called to love them, to show them grace.  It’s what we are commanded to do, it’s what this ministry is about…love and grace for those inside the prison walls and for those outside waiting.  Pray and wait with them.

“Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” Hebrews 13:3

Every Life Matters

Every life matters.  Whether it’s a prison inmate, starving children in a third world country, a drug addict, someone living an alternative lifestyle, a man holding a cardboard sign at an intersection…every life matters.  I hope I never get so wrapped up in my calling to prison ministry that I miss the people right in front of me, right in my own back yard.  I want to live a life that is different, a life that is not comfortable, not safe, a life sold out to Jesus.  I want to live like Jesus lived, seeing people and their need, giving them hope, love, grace, and mercy.  It doesn’t matter whether I think they deserve it…none of us really do…thank goodness for Jesus, He loves us even in our filth and offers grace.  An offender shared a song at one of our services recently and one line caught my attention, it simply said “Day after day, Jesus won’t throw you away”.  How many people do we walk by and disregard because we think they are unworthy of love? Or not worth our time? Our team may be called to prison ministry but as believers in Jesus Christ we are all called to love people, regardless of their sin or situation.

I would like to think that we would all desire to see everyone we come in contact with to come to saving faith in Christ.  Wouldn’t it make them better citizens, coworkers, friends, acquaintances, family members?  Real change happens through the power of the Gospel.  Some people think we are wasting our time sharing Jesus with inmates, we’ve heard the cliche’ “it’s only jailhouse religion”.  But rest assured, we see what Jesus does inside the razor wire, He wrecks people, He brings them to the end of themselves and they are transformed before our very eyes.  We see them grow from week to week, finally seeing and realizing how much this Great God of the universe loves them, how faithful He is and that He has such a beautiful wonderful plan for their lives.

Just this week an offender, who had been asking us to pray for his father, gave a praise report of the healing God was doing in his father’s life.  They are seeing the power of prayer.,.God is becoming so real to them.

Will they falter? Will some of them fall? Sure…we do that too, don’t we? But some are going to reach their families for Christ, their communities.  Some will be productive citizens for maybe the first time in their lives.  Some will be able to handle whatever trials come their way because they now have Jesus to walk through it with them.

The Gospel isn’t just for the people we think are deserving, Jesus died for all.  Who are you going to tell about Him today?

Every life matters.

Sing for the King,

Christy

Let My Faith Overcome My Fear

The Sing for the King team traveled many miles last week, held many services, and saw many lives changed by Jesus.  There’s so much I could write, so much to say…I will try to give a meager attempt at capturing a few of the precious moments that stilled my heart.

Tuesday – we went to City Union Mission’s Family Shelter.  We watched as women, children, babies, and more entered the kitchen to gather for the service.  I led them in singing praises to the Lord and as James and Johnny spoke to them about their lives having meaning, about them not being forgotten, about God having a purpose and a good plan for their lives…I saw streams of tears running down cheeks.  I saw hopelessness turn to hope as women came forward to surrender their lives to Christ.  I looked into their faces as those who came to Jesus gave me their names and others asked for prayer for the simplest things…an apartment, an education, to kick a smoking habit, for strength, for the Lord to bless her and her children.  As we were packing up an older woman asked Johnny for prayer, she had spent three years in prison and had been living in her car until she ran out of food.  She sold her car to buy food and once that ran out she came to the mission.  She wept as Johnny prayed for her, James was touched and thought that could be my grandma.  That could be someone’s grandma…  I didn’t want to be intrusive but I wanted to capture Johnny praying with her.

Family Shelter

Thursday – we had two services this day…our weekly service at KCRC and then an evening service at Moberly Correctional Center.  At KCRC we are trying to help prepare these men to reenter society as strong Christian men sold out for Jesus Christ.  They are afraid, afraid of failing, of not being strong enough.  Johnny shared some of his story to offer them some hope that they could leave prison and not return if they leave surrendered to Jesus and walk closely with Him.  He told them they had to put their relationship with Jesus above everything else.  And then we sang “Anything” and the one line of the bridge gave them peace and hope – Let my faith overcome my fear.  Lord, please strengthen their faith.

That night at Moberly, God moved and 16 men gave their lives to Christ, 16 souls saved from the clutches of the enemy and hell!  Glory to God!  We also took prayer requests and do you know what they pray for?  The very things we should be praying for… for more faith and trust in the Lord, to stay focused on God’s purpose for their lives, for salvation for their families, for change.

Friday – Algoa Correctional Center.  Tonight was a special night, we brought in a couple to talk to the men about marriage and relationships and how to have a Godly marriage and what they can do even inside the razorwire.  It was very moving, many men came forward to pray with our guests over their marriages and relationships.  And many men found salvation as well…15…I am in awe at what God allows us to be a part of and to witness.  Only He can do this work, only He can move the hearts of men toward Him, and it’s only He that changes lives.  What an honor to watch God transform lives before our very eyes.

At the end of services we always ask if anyone is going home so we can pray for them.  Somehow along the way I got nominated to be the “going home prayer”…it’s a nomination I gladly accept.  I always ask them if they know Jesus before I begin to pray, they won’t succeed on the outside without Him.  Tonight we had two gentlemen, one that received Christ that night and another older gentleman that already knew the Lord but he was struggling and it broke my heart.  I don’t usually cry in prison, I weep when praying for their requests at home but when I am there amongst them I rarely shed a tear..I don’t know why it’s just how it is, I think I simply treasure up every moment in my heart.  But this man touched me, he was sobbing, he was afraid, he was afraid of facing the outside world, he was afraid of failing.  I began to cry and then sucked it up so I could pray for them.  In my prayer for them I reminded them that God will never leave them nor forsake them, that He keeps His promises and that He has a purpose and a plan for their lives and that He loves them.  I hope they hold onto how much God loves them.  Church, please wrap your arms around these who enter your doors, your communities.  Hold them close, walk alongside them, encourage them, love them…please, please love them.  And Lord, help their faith overcome their fear.

Sing for the King,

Christy

P.S. A friend told me recently to guard my heart…I’m not doing a very good job at this.