Here is another event that shows God’s glory, and a call to those who either are, or thinking of, doing any jailhouse ministry.
I spent a long time in jail (and yes, for something I did do). Something from my past had caught up to me. But I didn’t want to just sit there, and I certainly wasn’t blaming God for letting me land up where I was. So I studied the word, talked with other inmates about God, and took every opportunity to meet with pastors who volunteered to meet with inmates.
I must admit that I don’t recall exactly how this event came to pass, but here is what happened. It was near the time of Passover (which is near the time of Easter, sometimes overlapping), and somehow I got permission to hold a Bible study about Passover and Easter for those pastors and guests that were interested. (This was not for any of the inmates). So there we were, me, a jail inmate, and about 10 or 11 of those involved in jail ministries studying God’s word together in the jail! I’m pretty sure that is the only time something like that has ever happened in that jail where an inmate was leading a Bible study for a group of people who weren’t inmates, and using a room at the jail house! That type of happening has “God” written all over it! Isn’t God great! I praised Him and thanked Him for both the fellowship and the opportunity to study His word with others (outside of other inmates). This just goes to show that God can do whatever He wants, no matter the circumstances. None of the guards joined in, but they were sure wondering what was going on as such an occurrence was unprecedented!
That brings me to comment about those doing, or thinking about, jail ministries. My comment is best explained by telling of another experience I had during my time in jail.
As I mentioned, I took every opportunity to meet with visiting pastors. Mostly I wanted to pray together with them. I asked for and got some time with a pastor I had not visited with before. He asked what I wanted and I responded, “I want to pray together with you.” His response was, “that is not what I’m here for. I’m here to answer questions about God that you may have.” I couldn’t believe my ears! That meeting pretty much ended at that point, and I went back to the cells somewhat hurt and quite disappointed.
So, if you are in jail ministry, or thinking about it, give some very serious introspection at your reasons for doing so. I’m pretty sure that the pastor I just mentioned thought he was doing a good deed by visiting inmates at the jail, and he must have figured that he was better then the inmates as he was not in the jail. But if that is your only reason for going, because it is a good deed mentioned in the Bible, don’t do it! You come across as a hypocrite with a condescending attitude, and you probably end up doing more harm then good. If, however, you do so out of a desire to help and with compassion, then please do. Inmates desperately need time, attention, and chance to talk about God’s word. Sure there are some inmates who will take advantage of your time, but for most, it is time well worth the effort. There were way to few people coming in and offering to meet with the inmates one-on-one, to pray or read God’s word or just listen. That is a huge need. And I thank God for all those that I encountered while in jail that were doing just that. Unfortunately, there were also those who were just ‘doing a good deed in their own eyes,’ or were doing so with an ‘I’m better then you’ attitude.
To sum up: God can work what He wants where He wants! and more people are needed to minister to those in jail (but do so with the right heart attitude!).
Note from Yosef: Passover is the actual day that Yeshua (Jesus) was crucified. He rose from the dead during the subsequent week of the ‘Feast of Unleavened Bread’, on the day of the ‘Barley Wave’ offering to the LORD. Easter has no roots in anything of Yeshua’s life, or anything Biblical, but was appropriated by early Christians as the day to celebrate Yeshua’s resurrection even though God has already given us the day to celebrate. The day of the Barley Wave offering during the week of Unleavened Bread is the day to celebrate Yeshua’s resurrection as that day is on God’s calendar!