It was never my goal in life to be a prison chaplain. Nobody grows up dreaming of spending their days wading through the darkness and oppression that looms over a prison filled with the outcasts of our society.
But the Lord had another plan.
Reaching the lost and hurting population of the penitentiary became my calling for twenty years. I loved every day of it and saw thousands come to faith in Christ. I grew to love “my guys.” Then God called me away to be a part of reaching the unreached and underserved of the world through With Open Eyes.
You Can’t Take Prison out of the Man
I’ve heard it said, “You can take the man out of prison, but you can’t take prison out of the man.” For me that’s true. Although no longer serving in full-time prison ministry, I still look for every opportunity to share the love and grace of Jesus with prisoners. So when during our recent trip to Kenya we were given the opportunity to visit the Remand Industrial Prison Complex in Nairobi to preach the gospel to those incarcerated there, we jumped at the chance.
Like most prisons, Remand Industrial Prison is a foreboding place. Old stone walls, razor wire, and massive iron gates surround the complex like a fort readying for a siege. Once we cleared security and made our way to the main yard, it felt like home to me. The prison yard, the sea of inmates’ faces, the feeling of uncertainty and anxiety and despair. Just like I’ve seen all those many years in prisons across America.
As we began to worship with the inmate-led praise band all of the uncertainty, anxiety, and despair dissipated. There was a palpable change in the environment. As always, I asked the Lord to give me simple words of His love and grace. Many of those gathered seemed to hang on every word. They were hungry to hear the Gospel message. Over forty responded to the invitation to make Jesus Lord and Savior.
A God-Given Opportunity
As we were leaving the facility, one prison worker commented to us that in the seven years he has been working in prison we were the first outside group that had been allowed in to share with the inmates. This time with these inmates was a God-opportunity. I like to think of it as God’s personal gift to me letting me know He knows my heart and cares.
For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Matthew 25:35-36