Like most of the women in jail, I ended up there because of the influence of a friend. My friend Audrey asked: “Do you want to go to jail with me?”
I thought she had completely lost her mind! Jail was definitely not something I ever planned on doing or could have possibly envisioned myself doing. Boy was she barking up the wrong tree!
I was in a Bible study with several other couples. Audrey, one of the women in the study, had started going into the jail to sing (she is a VERY gifted singer), tell Bible stories and share God’s truth with the women. I was a bit intrigued by that, because I could see Audrey’s heart for these women. My thought at the time was probably something like this: “Most of them probably deserve to be there, but it’s really nice that Audrey goes in to teach them about the Bible and Jesus.” Still, I found it interesting.
Audrey asked the group for prayer that God bring someone alongside her to help with her ministry to the women. That certainly seemed “safe”, so I prayed God would do just that. Audrey called a few days later and asked if I had been thinking and praying about the jail ministry. I innocently said “sure… has anyone expressed interest yet?”. She then said “well, I was thinking God might be calling YOU into this ministry. Do you want to go to jail with me?” I could not have been more stunned… definitely didn’t see THAT one coming! As the shock began to fade, I gave the “good church-going-spiritual-person” answer… “I’ll pray about it”. I feel sure most of my prayers sounded familiar to God, because they were probably the same ones Jonah prayed!
So the next day I take my mother-in-law and a friend of hers visiting from out of town to lunch. I innocently ask what this sweet, 77 year old woman had been up to lately. When she responded “well, I’ve been doing Bible study for the women in the local jail back in Texas” I about spit my lunch across the table. But I wasn’t yet convinced that meant God was calling ME to this ministry. I was certainly shaken, and God was beginning to have my focused attention, but I wasn’t convinced.
My husband and I send a small monthly donation to Grace To You, a teaching ministry that provides wonderful Bible study material for free that we utilize. They send audio CDs or other resources monthly as a “thank you” for their donors. The next day I was heading to town and grabbed the mail on the way. I saw a new CD from Grace To You, so I pulled it out and popped it in the CD player in the truck without even looking at the title. The message is always great, and always seems to be speaking directly to me. It began with something like this: “This month we have something very special for you… John MacArthur speaking on prison ministry.”
I had to pull over and catch my breath and my heart was going well above the posted speed limit. At that moment, I realized I was going to jail. I could do it voluntarily and get to exit the facility when I was done, or God would arrange other means (a trip in the belly of a whale came to mind!)… but I knew one way or another that I was going to jail.
Matthew 25:36, 40 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. … And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’