In my lifetime, I’ve learned that God is all about the ripple effect. I’ve been blessed to see just how often He will orchestrate events in such a way that the one stepping out in obedience is able to see so many other lives impacted by his or her obedience. The outcome of a particular situation is never just for one person alone.
For two years now, Connecting Streams volunteers have been going into local prisons to build relationships, share the love of Jesus, and help women find the future and hope that Jeremiah 29:11 talks about. What they have received in return is far beyond what they could ever have imagined.
Shortly after we began our prison visits, the inmates started trickling into the various groups offered. Before long, by word of mouth, they were inviting their friends. The gatherings are popular because they offer inmates the opportunity to fellowship with a group of women on the same journey – that of seeking a better understanding of Jesus, themselves, and each other. It is a place to enjoy or experience the journey with others willing to follow the faith and love of Jesus.
Many have shared that the groups have helped them become stronger in their faith. Some were seeking support and encouragement at difficult times in their lives, and found that the other women met them at their lowest times and were there to help guide them. Their mentors did not to give up on them, and for that they are immensely grateful.
Others found that the volunteers met them at a time when they were angry with God and their circumstances, and had given up on faith. The groups helped them move through this stage into eventually seeing God in a healthier way. They brought them to a place of hope, prayer, and relationship that had not been on their radar before they started.
Many of the inmates had a fear that God could not and would not love them after all they had done to get themselves into prison. However, their interaction with the groups enabled them to get to know a God who had been misrepresented in their past. These women now realize He loves them and is for them, not against them.
The women inmates have experienced true, permanent life change. The volunteers have stood back in awe of God as they have watched this transformation take place.
As the volunteers have witnessed dramatic life changes, forged deep friendships, and seen God transform lives, they have experienced a spectacular faith adventure that has deepened their own faith walks. God has rippled out excitement, faith, assurance, blessing, compassion, and His heart for the world. Each of the volunteers has been deeply touched by seeing and feeling the things that break and bless the heart of God.
In the words of one volunteer, “This has truly changed my life. To see God at work first-hand has been amazing to me. Some of the women had an instant change, while others were continually seeking. But I have learned that we are called to tell the Good News, and that the rest is up to the work of the Holy Spirit. I would tell others that this is the experience of a lifetime, and that this is the place where Jesus hangs out. But for the grace of God, it could be any one of us in there.”
Another volunteer relates, “I have been incredibly blessed and encouraged in my own faith by stepping out. What a gift this ministry is to the volunteers! You will never be the same, and you have nothing to fear – God meets you at every bend.”
Prison volunteers often say they are touched the first time they go, as they realize they are receiving more than they are giving. They are learning to be bold in the Spirit, waiting for His direction and quiet voice. They are deeper in love with Him, and more dependent than ever before. They have experienced that in their weakness, He is strong. These women have developed a deeper understanding of obedience, and of what that actually means at different points in their lives.
So, where does the ripple end? It doesn’t. That is the whole point of stepping out with God. He knows no limits, and can use our “yes” to meet those in our spheres of influence who need future and a hope. The ripple affects both those who go, and those who seek, in significant and life-changing ways.
God’s ways are higher than our ways. We are overwhelmed and awed by the incredible ways in which He reveals Himself when we walk in obedience to His invitation to share Him with our world.