Few people want to be there. Yet there are some that go willingly, giving time, money, and energy to share the message of Hope and Salvation. Once you go in, you want to go back again and again. To see a life changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ is contagious. High fences and razor wire cannot keep the work of the Holy Spirit out. He goes before us, stays with us, works through us, and, long after we’re gone, continues to fill inmates’ lives with the Peace and Hope that only Christ
can bring. God is at work – behind prison walls.
Torres Unit, Hondo, Texas, September 22, 2012. The Texas sun was shining and it promised to be a warm day. Inside the gymnasium, approximately 40 inmates gathered in anticipation of something that had never happened before. Their children were being brought in, behind prison walls, to spend the day with them. The inmates had worked hard for this day. Their conduct had been stellar, they had studied, they had been counseled, and they were seeing firsthand the fruits of their labor.
What was about to happen was a privilege not many inmates get to experience. In speaking with many of them, they were scared to death. It had been years since some of them had laid eyes on their children. Brought about through the pain of
her own broken relationship with her father, Scottie Barnes of Forgiven Ministry works to see men and women that are in prison have a restored relationship with their children, and ultimately a personal relationship with God through Jesus
Christ. Only the hand of God can bring it about!
The male prisoners lined up on one side of the prison yard. Their children were escorted in with mentors and lined up on the other side of the yard. As one of our team members called out the name of a prisoner, that prisoner and his children ran to each other, embraced and shouted with joy, all to the cheers of 150+ volunteers that had come to minister on this day. Not a dry eye could be found. What was happening here was a miracle – over 18 years in the making. It couldn’t be done many had said. And yet there were a few that said it could be. They had prayed that the doors would be opened behind prison walls in
Barracks surround this prison yard. Inmates not in the program could see what was taking place. This same yard where physical and verbal altercations had taken place, where blood had been shed between gang members, was now an arena of joy and celebration. Something greater was happening. Emotional and spiritual barriers were coming down. Lives
were being touched and changed from the inside out.
As platform guests for Forgiven Ministry, Dribble for Destiny was privileged to perform and share with these inmates and
children. For two hours we had the opportunity to share about a Heavenly Father that loves us and cares for us and
has a specific plan for our lives. Our being there was a chance to tell them that it is halftime – time to make adjustments. Fix the game plan. What didn’t work in the first half must be corrected so that the same mistakes are not repeated. Whether or not they were looking at parole next week, next month, next year, or never, God has a plan for their lives and they can be set free, even behind prison walls. Because of the generosity of some of our supporters, we were able to give each of the children an official Olympic pin from the 2012 Olympics as a reminder of their day with dad as well as a reminder that God has a special plan for their lives. Thank you to those of you that give so that we can go!
Leaving the prison we headed over to do a program for the caretakers – those that care for the children of the inmates while dad is in prison. How sweet to hear testimonies of the mothers, grandparents, aunts, and sisters about how God is
working in their lives because of what they are experiencing. So many times we go to be an encouragement and come away being so much more encouraged than we dreamed. These are warriors that are working hard so that their children’s children do not repeat the same mistakes.
Sunday, September 23, 2012, Torres Unit Chapel, Hondo, Texas. Scottie shared for 45 minutes about her father who was imprisoned and died while there. Dressed in his prison uniform and holding two coins not amounting to more than 25 cents, his body was shipped home in a wooden box. God used that story to change lives that morning. After the service Scottie asked to please speak with the harder criminals, the ones not allowed to go to the chapel service. There was little time left and the officials said it might not be possible. She knew in her heart that she had to speak to these men. Granted permission, she shared for about ten minutes. Once again lives were changed. The men stood as she spoke, not wanting to sit down. When Scottie asked the guard why they wouldn’t sit, he responded that they had great respect for her. Standing meant that they honored her. One prisoner, a gang leader, asked if he could speak to her at the close of the service. As they visited, he gave his heart to Christ. He was changed. He went back to his dorm crying and wanted to share the news that he had been redeemed. Other inmates in his dorm began to weep as he shared what he had experienced. And it happened behind prison walls.
Last week as we drove from South Carolina to San Antonio we knew the blessings would come. But the magnitude of that blessing was far greater than we ever imagined. Going through New Orleans we received a phone call from Tully Blanchard,
one of the original Four Horsemen. We have worked with Tully in prisons all over the southeast for years. What we didn’t know was that he was now living in San Antonio. He was calling to see if Sherri could golf in a fund raiser on
Monday. Sherri asked him, “Tully, do you know where I am heading right now?” He had no idea we were heading to San Antonio! The tournament was held by Cornerstone Church to raise funds for their Christian school. Pastor John Hagee and his church, one of San Antonio’s largest, have a heart for missions and long to see lives changed. As a prelude to going into prisons, we always listen to his sermon on the Soul Winner’s Crown. Scottie Barnes has tried for years to meet Pastor Hagee, knowing that he had a heart for inmates, but had no connection. After the tournament on Monday, Sherri was personally introduced to him and shared with him about Scottie’s passion for prisoners and their families. He told her to ask Scottie to come to the church, go to the security personnel, and they would personally escort her to his office.
God’s plan is big. It’s bigger than we can imagine. And His plan is about Him. The beauty in that is that He uses us to fulfill that plan! He orchestrates peoples’ lives, He longs to bless us. We are His passion, His heartbeat. What happens when we follow His lead and go where He sends us is beyond what our tiny minds can fathom or dream. Whether it is in a small church, on international soil, in communist countries, in a mega church, or a workplace, God is at work. He uses our unique gifts and talents to bring people to Him. He is light in dark places. And He longs to restore broken lives to the purpose He has planned. How humbling to be used. Even behind prison walls.