Saturday I had the privilege of going with a group of women to minister to the Crain Unit, Women’s Prison in Gatesville, TX.
There were about 25 of us and as we arrived, we went through the routine of normal checking in when entering as a visitor going into a prison. Because this was a Federal prison, the rules were a little more strict than when we had gone to a prison in East Texas. As we walked in, looking across the barbed wire topped fence encircling the acres of buildings and land, we saw huge trash collectors being poked with long metal poles to ensure that no inmates were hiding under the trash before taking it outside the walls. We were led by a guard to a building where we entered into the world of cages which were inside the concrete buildings, that would have only 1 door to enter or exit the corridor of the concrete building. Permission had to be granted before the ladies could leave the “cage” even to go to the restroom. We were expecting about 500 inmates to come hear our speakers and Bible teaching, but because 2 of the guards refused to come to our service, many of the inmates which had lined up, waiting outside their cells did not get to come. Our team walked around the chairs and shook hands and thanked the ladies for coming. Some already had tears in their eyes. One young lady was crying as she had just received a letter from her mother-in-law saying that she was working with an attorney to try to not allow the children to have any contact with her,their mom. Her heart was breaking. The conversations that we began to have with these ladies allowed us to see that sometimes, “there but by the grace of God, go I.” Yes bad actions and decisions had been made in their lives, and they were now living with the consequences of those decisions, which is how it should be. But all of a sudden I began to think about some of my actions, though at this time in my life, have not been any that would land me in jail, but had actually placed me in a prison of my own making. It was such a message to my heart that how many times, had I allowed my circumstances to control my joy or my peace & was actually creating my own “prison wall” around my heart? Just because I was not surrounded literally by a wall keeping me imprisoned, didn’t mean that I wasn’t living my life as such. But because of God’s grace and mercy, He is able to break any chain, As the ladies from our team spoke, tears would begin to flow down some of the lady inmates’ cheeks. Some of the inmates would begin to clap and encourage each other. As we lined up to hand out a bit of literature, with the exception of only about 5 of the ladies, all the rest either hugged us, or shook our hands and thanked us over and over, telling us to please come back. Some of them commented saying “I can’t believe ya’ll drove all the way down just to see us.” It meant so much that we had spent a Saturday just to come see them. We saw women there that looked so hopeless and so forlorn, while others had a precious spirit about them. It was such a blessing to see what God had been allowed to do in the hearts of some of the women who had surrendered their hearts to the Lord and was allowing Him to shine His light through them in a very dark place. They truly were being a lighthouse for Him in the place where they were.
It really was a blessing to see so many women, held captive behind the barbed wire fence, the light of God shining through them. They had determined in their hearts that just because they were a prisoner didn’t mean that they had to live their life with no hope or peace.
We all left that afternoon, feeling so blessed that we had watched a group of women that loved the Lord and were determined to shine His light behind even a prison wall. God can and is still in the business of changed lives, if we just allow Him to do so!