(I wrote this last spring and thought that the time was right to share it with you. Or maybe am just becoming embarrassed at how little I'm posting here.)
“Bye, Mom!” the children shriek from across the lawn. Ed is playing catch with the children on this lovely evening, and I'd like to join them. Instead, I slide into the van and drive to the detention center. I spend the evening behind concrete walls bent over my Bible with ladies whose scarred faces and tattooed arms will get no glimpse of smiling children running over green grass.
When I arrive home and help tuck the children to bed, I turn to Ed with thanks. “The women said that Wednesday evenings are their best evening of the week. Thank you so much for encouraging me to go to prison.”
Eight years ago, I would have been shocked to hear myself saying those words.
It all started one Sunday on the way home from church. “So are you going to sign up?” asked Ed.
That morning a plea went out for church ladies to volunteer. For the previous five years, men from our church had held a weekly Bible study for the men at the detention center. Now we had been asked to hold a Bible study for the women at the same detention center. But that meant some of us women would need to get involved.
“Do you think I can?” I asked Ed. “I like teaching children, but the few times that I've taught the women's Sunday School class, I've been so nervous that my hands shook. And they were my friends. Prisoners? I've always heard that female inmates are a coarse, hardened bunch. I don't know if I could.”
“I'm not saying you have to,” said Ed, “but if you want to, I don't mind keeping the children so you can go.
Several months later, I joined about a dozen ladies from church in completing paperwork, background checks, and volunteer orientation. We nervously walked behind barbwire coils for the first time.
And each of us were stretched, challenged, and encouraged by discussing the Word of God with the inmates.
Now, eight years later, I look forward to my evenings at prison. My turn comes around about once a month or so. I don't often have an evening away without my children, and the undistracted time to study God's Word is always a blessing.
The inmates claim that we encourage them, but I'm certain I have gained more than I have given.
(To be continued)
Have you ever done something far out of your comfort zone - and been glad you did?