By Palle Persson
If only the inmates wouldn’t treat me so well when I come to visit them. This would be an easy ministry to quit. It’s a long drive (three hours round trip), lots of walking (even the employee parking lot seems like it’s a mile away from the jail), always standing, and lots of talking (and all that praying). Its way out of my comfort zone physically, emotionally and spiritually (I’m not trained for this). The arthritis in my feet and knees is getting worse, and every once in a while I’m required to write one of these newsletter articles, it’s exhausting.
Sometimes I talk to and pray for people who have committed terrible crimes, scary people, or the people who are locked up with them, scared people. I might be ready to go home for the day and a deputy will ask me to deliver a death notification to an inmate telling him that his mother, father, brother or son has died (this is the worst assignment). As a teacher, I’m responsible for making sure that what I teach is Biblically accurate (James 3:1). A recent TV news story called Men’s Central Jail, “a very dangerous, run down, problem plagued nightmare”. People have asked me, “Why minister to criminals when you can minister to good people?”
Here’s one recent testimony about why I serve in jail: Last December I developed 2 abdominal hernias and had to have them surgically repaired. I missed a month and a half of jail ministry. I enjoyed the time off. I seriously thought about not going back. I was enjoying my “me” time. On the other hand, I really couldn’t imagine not going back, jail ministry has become a part of who I am.
Reluctantly, but with a sense of duty, I went back and the guys in my class joyfully presented me with a welcome back card they wrote on a piece of cardboard.
“Welcome back Palle. Hallelujah!! He’s back. Praise God. We Thank the Father God for the success of your operation and healing. Prayers do work for a purpose, Amen. Yes, we missed you for just being you in the Holy Spirit and the anointed ukulele. You go boy!!”
The Purpose Driven Life students
I think that maybe God used my hernia and the 45 inmates in my class to take my focus off of me and put it back on Jesus, the gospel message and the body of Christ. I’ve been teaching The Purpose Driven Life for over 7 years and this experience has brought me back to the first sentence of the book, “It’s not about you!”
God Bless our church family!