Sept. 16, 2011 begins my 4th year in jail ministry. I’d like to introduce you to a brother in Christ. I met Juan about a year ago, while he was handcuffed to a steel bench. He was 30 years old, big and strong, but he looked so broken, like the only thing holding him together was his prison blues. He was so distraught that he hadn’t filled out the request to see a chaplain. His wife had requested it for him through the Protestant Chaplains office at the Lynwood Woman’s Jail where she was being held.
I wanted to hate him before I had even met him. Some Christian I am. I knew why he was locked up. Juan had driven, drunk to pick up his welfare check with his wife and 4 children. On the freeway, he hit a center divider and his children were ejected from the car. His 11-year-old son was killed. My wife, Eileen, had a brother who was killed by a drunk driver. I thought, “Lord, this is not the guy I really want to be talking to.”
God led me to Romans 12: 9-21 at the time I went to that bench and gave me a heart for Juan. With my hand on his shoulder, we just cried. Juan thought his sin was too great to be forgiven. I explained to him that we’re all sinners and even the smallest fraction of a sin separates us from a righteous and Holy, Holy, Holy God, none righteous, not one (Romans 3:9-10).
I explained how we are saved by the grace of God through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8). We discussed why we need to be saved and how Jesus saves us (Romans 3:21-26, Hebrews 2:10-18). I talked to him about saving faith and how it leads to action, a changed life (John 15:1-6). I began to see him regularly. He ended up in my Bible study class and I was able to minister to him 3 times a week.
In Christ, Juan found purpose, mercy, hope, forgiveness, the strength to draw breath and keep on living. He became a leader in class, hungry for the word of God, respected by other inmates, on fire for the Lord. He ministered to me by keeping me and my family in prayer, especially after I lost my parents.
After about 4 months Juanwas rolled out of my class. I still met with him occasionally. Around 2 months ago, he was waiting outside the chapel to thank me for all I had done for him, but he had done as much for me. His trial was over and he was to be relocated to State prison for 12 years. I pray that this testimony would be of benefit to our church family.
God’s strength in our weakness, Amen.