One week tomorrow since I returned home from Missouri and Illinois where I had the opportunity to minister to those in the gated community. Because coming home entails picking up where I left off, I am not always able to just pour into my writing. Though I will say, I am blessed with a husband who actually takes over while I am gone. Taking care of the kids, meals, appointments, homework, laundry, the list goes on. Therefore, picking up where I left off is really just snuggling in with the family and being not just physically present for them but emotionally present as well.
With my families emotional bank accounts filled up and a little time on my hand I am ready to pour out and share about the incredible trip I had inside and outside the prison walls. This trip marked the one-year anniversary where I actually felt for the very first time what Holy Ground was like beneath my feet. This trip marked the anniversary where I realized that the Lord had given me a new set of eyes and that where others saw prisoners I saw broken and beautiful women. It was this time last year where I found myself feeling more at home inside the prison then I did the church walls.
I arrived in Missouri last Thursday afternoon, traveling with two of my most favorite people in the whole wide world and team members from the ministry. I have to say, traveling with these two women is actually one of my favorite parts of serving in ministry. The gift of friendship that comes with serving is priceless, thank you my friends for making serving in ministry so rewarding.
Our first evening in town was spent with a Daughter Free, where we had the opportunity to join her in celebrating her churches 100-year anniversary. A night of worship, celebration and inspiration, it was truly an amazing event to participate in. From there we came home, enjoyed “homemade” chocolate chip cookies, a little down time, and then off to bed. I was blessed to have made a new friend and some new memories.
Friday night was our first event with the ministry behind bars. We arrived at the facility an hour prior to our event in the chapel, got cleared to come in, met with the chaplain and found ourselves smack dab in the middle of a tornado warning. Like we tell people who serve in this ministry, be prepared for anything to happen. There we were the three of us and the chaplain inside the chapel, waiting for the ladies to be released when all of a sudden the warning turned to a watch.
The sky grew dark quickly as if a blanket had been put over the light of day. The rain came down like a broken sprinkler head and the cracking in the sky sounded like a bullwhip hitting the earth. The bright flashes of lighting gave way to the silhouettes of the trees on the yard. How do I stay calm in the middle of the storm, once again? Praising God through all circumstances and that is just what we did as a team. We had quickly been directed back to the chaplain office to hunker down and prepare for what just might possibly be.
Eventually we came out, threw on some worship music and just started singing and dancing to the Lord in the middle of the storm. Thunder and lighting, rain all around us and guards and inmates watching from the other side.
They eventually released the women to come to chapel and the teaching began. I recognized a few faces from last years visit but most of the ladies I saw this time were new faces. They greeted us with smiles, handshakes and a look of deep gratitude. When many of them found out, we were from California they just could not believe we had come such a distance for them. Even one of the guards questioned why we would do such a thing. With a smile on our faces and love in our hearts our response was because God loves you, that simple. He went the distance for us and we will do the same for you was the song in our hearts as we were given the privilege to minister to the most beautiful women in our nation.
The ladies devoured the teaching; they embraced the message and worshipped the Lord with all their hearts. Once again, I found myself amazed at the freedom I felt amongst these women who were locked up behind bars with most of their freedoms taken away.
Leaving the ladies is always the hardest, walking away through the facility and out the doors leaving them behind breaks my heart every time. However, I knew I would be back in the morning, which helped ease the pain of my heart and bridge the distance between our two worlds.