So, I have been processing something that I experienced the other day that I think I might be ready to share. If you know me at all, you know I’m a musician. Specifically a singer, but I also play some instruments and I have been a part of the music team at my church for many years. I may not be professional, but I love it and love to share the gift God has entrusted me with, so why not!
A few months ago I was asked, along with the rest of our team, if we might lead a worship service at a prison. My first thought was “why not?” I signed up as soon as I could! I’m always willing to share, and leading worship is something I know I am called to do. I put my name on the list and the date on the calendar.
We started getting closer and met to discuss what we might expect when we get there. Warned that while this program is for inmates who are transitioning in some way, those who are seeking a closer relationship with God, they are still inmates of a correctional facility. They have been convicted of something, and we don’t know what. It’s a very unpredictable situation, even though every precaution will be in place to keep us as safe as possible.
Nervous? Of course! I think I would be irrational to think there is no danger, but I know God is in control of this. I’ve prayed and feel peace about our going. Let’s do this.
The day came. I did have some butterflies, but strangely not about the safety of those of us going deep into a prison to lead worship, it was more because I didn’t know what to expect! What would it look like? Would the inmates enjoy what we have to offer? Would our music and message help lead them closer to God? Unknowns can be scary, but I wasn’t really scared!
We got there and went through security. They walked us back to the newly built chapel (it was really nice, even air conditioned!) and we set up. They had most of what we needed right there, instruments, music stands, microphones. Even a decent sound board! We hooked up and did a little rehearsing. One inmate even joined us on a mandolin which added something very special to the sound and the experience.
Leading a group of men in worship was an entirely different experience for me. Normally when I hear the congregation sing, it’s a lot of women’s voices along with a smattering of deep baritones. This evening was an overwhelming and resounding boom of deep and passionate voices. It actually blew me away! I had all I could do to hold in my emotions and not cry! These men felt it, I know they did. The Holy Spirit was spilling over in that room! Praise Jesus!
After we did the music, our beloved pastor gave the message. Quite a message it was, based on Isaiah 49. I wasn’t entirely sure where he was going with it until he was done, but I loved how he made it unique to the audience. Sometimes we don’t feel like we matter to people. But we matter to God. God loves us so passionately and so intimately that He has written our names on the palms of His hands! No matter what, we matter. That hit me down deep, because I’m not unlike everyone else in that room. Insecurity, self-esteem, past choices all follow me; but God doesn’t care about any of that. He loves me! He loves YOU! He loves those men. Amen.
Driving back with my team, I think we all agreed that we will go back. I wish I knew exactly when. But given the opportunity again, I will return. Those faces matter. Those names matter. Every single person in that room wanted to shake our hands, to bless us, to know us. I don’t think I could stop smiling all night!
Some of the guys will never leave prison. Some will be out in the next few months or years. No matter what, they matter. Even if they don’t matter to their families, their friends, they matter to God. As a Christian, they matter to me. Pray for those who are incarcerated. Pray that they come to know the Lord in a personal way. It matters.