Treasure, Treasure, - Everywhere!!!

My eyes began to flood with tears as I stepped onto the prison grounds. I’ve heard of standing on Holy Ground before, but this was the first time that I literally felt it press against the souls of my feet. I could feel the very power and presence of the Spirit of the Living God behind these walls. It seems strange to find Him in the last place where most people would choose to go. But it’s not strange at all.

As I entered the camp, signs of imprisonment were everywhere – the bars on windows, the chained fences, and guards. These were sure signs that I had entered the other side of the prison system. For three days I walked throughout this facility. I met many inmates while I was there, but I did not see a single prisoner.

I saw beautiful women. Precious sisters. Fellow travelers. Broken people. Victorious saints. Hurting children of God. Best friends. I saw people who are the same as you and me. But I saw no prisoners. With the eyes of Jesus I saw only these precious treasures of God. Beautiful, beautiful treasures.

We were greeted with cheers, tears, and hugs as we entered the faith-based dorm. These women are part of a program based on the Bible. Our meeting with them felt like a family reunion. I recognized the resemblance in our brokenness and I knew that we shared the same blood line. We even looked alike in many ways. The overwhelming presence of God allowed the tears to flow as holy women praised God in their weakness. Their dancing and singing for the Lord proved that no chains on earth were holding these women back. I immediately fell in love with them and we became like best friends during our visit.

It became clear to me how forgotten these treasures are. They hunger for outside contact. Just our presence told them that they were valued. At one point the staff gave our team these tall chairs to sit on – I called them Pope Chairs because they really stood above the common people. It wasn’t long before we abandoned those high and mighty thrones so we could sit among our sisters. It is here in this church-behind-walls where the dividing line between “us and them” is erased. I experienced a simple honesty and brokenness and oneness like I have often yearned for in many churches I’ve attended. We had no pretenses to hold up – no masks to wear. We came together as lost and blind children who had been gloriously rescued by our Heavenly Father, and nothing binds hearts together stronger than that. My prayer is that more “free” Christians who are imprisoned by Satan’s deception will experience this kind of a tremendously liberating experience – perhaps even by going to prison!

Our yard experience was breathtaking. Many precious women were blessed. Some women feared getting out of prison, but no wonder. I remember how I wanted to stay in treatment. The fear of going back to my self-defeating life felt like a prison sentence in itself. The fear of rejection from a world requiring perfection was enormous. The fear of failing and falling short of society’s standards was overwhelming. So my heart broke for these precious women, because I vividly remember being taken from my home because of my actions. I recognized their pain because it had been my own pain. I heard those same hellish lies that screamed, “You are worthless. You are what you did! You are forever condemned.” It was such a joy to see many women set free. Many women came to realize that the very bars they once cursed were actually protecting them and drawing them nearer to their Maker. We saw women receiving a spiritual pardon from Jesus, which is much better than a pardon from the state.

The Word says, “You must lose your life to gain it.” So many of the daughters we visited in prison had gained abundant life by losing their lives in brokenness and humility. This is also my prayer for “free” Christians on the outside – for believers who are going through the religious motions of church, while not experiencing the exhilarating freedom of losing their lives sacrificially for Jesus. I know what that’s like because I wore those hypocritical religious chains for too long. I know of no better way to gain freedom than to lose your life by serving “the least of these” priceless treasures. I am forever changed and beautifully ruined by my visit to Vandalia.

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