If my memory serves me correctly (and oft times it doesn’t anymore), on Friday August 4th all of us who had been serving on Monday nights for Prison Fellowship received the long awaited green light email: Chester County Prison is open again to religious volunteers. After 3 ½ years of waiting and wondering, we could resume ministering to hurt and broken men in desperate need of the Gospel, whether for the first time or a fresh reminder of what Jesus had done for them.
We had three days to scramble and prepare to go in and share the love of God. We could serve again!! What had been a great joy interrupted by a terrible catastrophe was now going to be experienced again. The routine that had become such a part of our lives for so many years, replaced by a different routine, was now back.
So, what makes serving such a great joy? How can it be joyful to serve in such a dark place as a prison? I know if you asked any of us who serve in this ministry, we would tell you we would much rather serve somewhere else. Not because we don’t want to be there, but because we don’t like to see anybody in pain and hurting and in a place where there is little they can do to remedy their circumstances. We understand the harsh realities of a sinful, fallen world. We listen to their stories and testimonies and these men are in pain, but many of them not without hope. Our joy is to bring them the hope and promise of the Gospel, of the eternal relationship they can have with Jesus.
The joy we find in serving in Prison is a multi-faceted joy. One of the joys is that we get to dig deeply into God’s Word to share the Good News with them and it enriches our souls as well. We are inspired to read, meditate and speak God’s Word to men who need it and so do we!! I love the way God’s Word opens to me as I prepare a message and I know I speak for all in this Ministry that this is a great joy!
We get to pray for the hurting. We find great joy in communicating with our Heavenly Father, asking Him to help these guys knowing, in faith, that He will. We serve our God who is loving and caring beyond measure!
We also experience being ministered to by our brothers when we’re struggling with something as we pray for each other. It is so comforting to know that there are men serving along side us who have each other’s backs. There are also numerous people who pray for us. Thank you! It is joy to know we are not alone in God’s work. During my walk as a Christian, I have been ministered to and helped by brothers and sisters who serve along side me. Following Jesus is not meant to be a solitary experience.
Finally, there is the joy of the power and help of the Holy Spirit. There’s no way we could do any of this on our own. My first time going back into CCP was delayed several weeks due to various commitments. That first evening was a real struggle as I had just lost my mom a few days prior and was dealing with grief, uncertainty, and feeling very overwhelmed and physically exhausted. I was tempted to cancel, but I knew that in difficult times the Holy Spirit will meet us and help us in powerful ways.
As we progressed through the first service, I began to experience the refreshment of my soul and the invigoration in my body. I am responsible for leading the second service and by the time it started I could barely contain my excitement in sharing the love of God. I had to stop myself as I was in danger of beginning to “preach” and it was not my turn that evening. What an amazing moment!
By the time the service ended I was wide awake, excited and feeling more peaceful than I had felt in days. God is so good!! If you are currently serving then I hope this is a fresh reminder of who you serve and why we serve and thank you for serving! I know the Lord is pleased. If you are not serving, please pray and consider how the Lord can use you to advance His kingdom. If you feel ill-equipped, trust me, he will empower you to do things you never dreamed possible. It will indeed, be your joy!