I never planned on going to jail, but looking back I can see that God prepared me for it, despite my selfish unfaithfulness. I am so thankful God is faithful, even when we are not! He knew the exact steps I would need to take, and He directed them. Serving Jesus Christ through jail ministry is undoubtedly one of the biggest privileges and blessings of my life.
My friend Audrey was going in one night a week to teach one class when I started going to jail with her to teach Bible study for the women. There were 4 pods (cell blocks) eligible for Bible study, which meant each pod had a class with us once a month. It wasn’t long before we were both convicted that once a month wasn’t nearly enough, so we began going in two nights a week.
Audrey and I quickly fell into a wonderful rhythm. Jail ministry was NOTHING like anything I had ever done before. I was seeing God move and work in the women’s lives, and in my own life. I was growing and learning in new ways. I began to realize that you don’t get to see God’s power at work until you are willing to step out and do something you KNOW you are unprepared and unable to do on your own.
Preparing the Bible studies was a HUGE blessing. It is one thing to study Scripture for yourself, but it is very different when you study to teach and explain it to others. I was going deeper into God’s Word and deeper with God, and I was LOVING it! I quickly realized that the Bible studies were for ME, and then I got to share them with the women.
I began looking forward to Sunday and Monday nights the way a kid looks forward to Christmas morning. I would think “I can’t wait to see what God has in store tonight!” It was amazing watching Him move and work in the lives of the women, and in us. I loved hearing Audrey sing and watching her tell stories related to the studies. Audrey’s love for the women amazed and inspired me. She encouraged me, guided me, gently corrected me when I would swallow my foot, and she gave me a wonderful example to follow and learn from. We grew very close and she became a treasured friend. I felt more spiritually alive and closer to God than ever before. I remember hoping and praying this would continue for a long, long time. I began to get more comfortable, and almost a tiny bit confident.
But about a year after I joined the jail ministry, a series of events unfolded in Audrey’s life that changed everything for both of us. The end result was that Audrey and her husband ended up moving out of state to help Audrey’s parents as her Dad was recovering from an illness.
It was a blessing that they were able to go, but it was a very scary time for me to find myself in this jail ministry alone. I never once considered not going to jail, but the thought of shouldering the responsibility alone was very unsettling. I recruited an accountability partner to review my studies for me, and later I added a second one. I wanted to make sure that my studies were clear and Biblically sound. I put out several requests for someone to join me, but no one expressed interest. So I just continued going, solo. During this time I began to realize that some of my faith was in Audrey that should have been in the Lord!
Audrey had started an email prayer team and she would email weekly updates on the ministry and prayer requests from the women. I continued that, and the prayer team grew. I am so thankful for the faithful prayer warriors that provide prayer for the ministry, the women, and so much encouragement for me personally. They have my back.
But each time I walked into the jail, it was just me and God and a bunch of women in jumpsuits. I learned to trust God even more, and that was good. After about a year and a half, God brought me a new partner, Terry, and she has been coming with me ever since. She was also totally new to jail ministry, and I have to say it has been a lot of fun watching God work in and through her!