Over the last few weeks, I came across people who, in layman terms, were ex-convicts, who had been in the prison for different reasons and had suffered brutality at the hands of the Indian Judiciary system. Shocking still, almost all of them had been unjustly or inappropriately charged of wrong doing before being sent to prison. Their tales broke my heart!
More personally, a couple in my church got taken in by the police on completely baseless grounds. They managed to bail themselves out, and when they did, they had a chance of sharing God’s love with people that are so broken and hurting that they didn’t see any point in living life.
That inspired me to write this post and address the need for the church to rise up to minister to people who are hurting and broken in the prisons. It caused me to think on the best ways we can bring glory to Jesus in a place such as the prison.
Here’s God’s mandate for our churches today:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
for the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed.
The First Needs
The best way to understand the gravity of the need is to visit the prison and see the number of people that are living disappointed lives. Most of them are disappointed with themselves. Many of them have no one for themselves, not even their families. Recently, the couple in our church helped a girl to be released from prison just by being available to help do her paper work with the officials. She was extremely grateful and even receptive to the gospel when she was released. Most often, the ones that are struggling and locked up in prison have physical needs that we can cater to. They may be as basic as food, clothing or shelter.
Extending help and being genuinely willing to help tells them that there is someone in the whole world who is concerned about them and is willing to spend money, time or effort to make them feel special. This matters a lot to them.
I pray that God would inspire you to do that.
The Emotional Exploitation
It takes a lot of hard work to be able to actually enter prisons and share God’s love with them. The number of permissions and letters one needs to finally make it to the prison is so many, that unless you are really passionate for the cause, you wouldn’t be willing to go that extra mile.
But once inside, the picture ain’t that rosy either. There are hurting people, who, when they see a ray of hope in you, might cling to you with their everything. It’s exactly what a drowning person would do when given a plank of wood. You might end up feeling that they are taking advantage of you, that you don’t have any space or time for yourself.
Be prepared in your mind for all of this before actually venturing in to help or ministers to prisoners. Read up on people who have successfully ministered in prisons and the challenges they faced, before stepping into something like this.
The Meeting of the Brokenness
Here’s the good news.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted;
he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.
This means that people whose spirits are crushed and those who are brokenhearted are closest to God than they can ever be. Your job and my job is to be an agent that allows them to have that God encounter that all humanity is longing for. If only you could see the hunger and genuine desire for God in a prison, you would be astounded.
We got an opportunity to visit and minister at a prison in Kenya on our previous visit there. The inmates there were lined up for prayer all over the place. They were so hungry for a touch of the Holy Spirit that we couldn’t leave the prison even after our allotted time was over.
Do not let the fact that its hard to do prison ministry and that there are “bad people” out there, stop you from going for it. This is also one of the easiest place to see God’s presence and power manifest because of the hunger and willingness to believe and put their faith in the creator of their lives and souls.
The Gradual Process
Let’s not get so carried away with the hunger, that we forget that people take time to change and yield to God.
We all have taken forever to change, even after so many God moments and visitations in our lives. Most often that not, we are surrounded by good and God loving people, unlike the ones who are rejected and suffering and in the prisons that are all surrounded by not many “church-like” folks. So you need to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus who has called you into doing this kind of ministry and continue to press on even when people disappoint you and slow in their speed of change.
We see in the bible, a letter to Philemon about Onesimus who was a fellow prisoner with Paul. The letter from Paul encourages Philemon to be kind and patient with Onesimus.
How I wish we had more father figures like Apostle Paul in the church today. I don’t get bothered about the fact that it takes months, if not days, for my toddler son to go from crawling to standing to walking. And it, in no way, discourages me from being his father, even with the extremely high number of falls he has every single day. I am only more proud of the fact that He is trying to walk!!!
The Ministry to Jesus
Jesus was very specific when he spoke about ministering to prisoners. Here’s quoting Jesus: Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’ (Matthew 25:37-40)
How beautiful is that! That’s God’s heart for the ones hurting and for those in the prison. If only we would see and understand that everything we do for people in prisons, we are doing it for Jesus, we will go crazy in being willing to go beyond our human ability in order to give our very best in ministering to Jesus who gave his very best, his very own life for us!
If you are willing to help or volunteer to be part of the prison ministry we are doing from Bangalore Revival Center, do take a minute to write to us on [email protected]. Let’s endeavour to work together for the same purpose.