One year ago I attended the Connecting Streams Dessert Fundraiser. It was there that I was moved by the Holy Spirit and first felt the call to this ministry. When [Director] Donna Mitchell asked me if I would like to share my experience with you, I responded without reservation with a big “YES”! However, when it came time to write down this last year’s journey, I realized I would need your attention for an hour to tell the whole story! So I focused by asking this question…what does the Holy Spirit want for you to know about this ministry?
There was a time within the last 10 years that I became painfully aware that I did not have a heart for the lost. I am not sure how long I prayed for this, but there was a season that I asked the Lord to change my heart. I begged Him to place a burden on me for those who are not going to spend eternity in heaven. When you ask the Lord this, He is faithful and will answer this prayer!!
There were roadblocks along the way, though. I experienced the sad truth that people don’t think they “need” Jesus! They have money, careers, jobs, children, projects, shopping, and travel, just a name a few. All this and more keeps their minds occupied, preventing them from recognizing the “Jesus hole” that exists in their lives! I saw a society that is “self-medicating” and self-sufficient. I felt discouraged and ineffective. I could see these people’s need for Jesus, but they were not at the end of themselves yet, so they were unable to accept that they needed Jesus.
Hearing about this ministry moved me in such a way. Scripture that I have heard over and over again over the years, I seemed to be really hearing for the first time!! “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few….” Matthew 9: 37. The New Testament screamed to me of how He came for the poor…the heavy-laden…those in prison…the sick…that was His ministry!! In Luke 4:18, Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
I was reminded that the time when I was ready to truly turn my life over to Him was when I was at the end of myself…trapped in a prison of my own poor choices and self-medication to dull the pain. Yet, He had a plan for me, an abundant life and eternity with Him. The Holy Spirit has filled me with such a love for these women. He has given me eyes to see them as Jesus sees them. He has revealed to me their heart!! Read Matthew 5! This is exactly how Jesus sees them.
Prison is the PERFECT set up for the Holy Spirit to get people’s attention! We are a group of friends, getting together in community to share our story and to find out what God wants to do in our lives if we just allow Him to work. We use the Compass as the tool. It is full of Scripture and asks great questions!
Prison is the PERFECT set up to see what the Holy Spirit does in these women’s lives. Week by week I have witnessed the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. I have seen the Counselor at work during the week when I saw one lady come back the following Tuesday so excited about the new verses she had learned.
Prison is the PERFECT set up to provide down time to evaluate and pray. It’s an opportunity to clear the head from drugs so that seeds of Jesus’ love for them can be planted on soil that can retain it.
Prison is the PERFECT place for these women to be freed from their own inner prisons. I remember one question from the Compass: “What in your life is too big for you?” I was taught that night that these women’s current incarceration behind the cement walls was not their true prison. One lady shared that her physical imprisonment was actually “freedom”!! Others nodded in agreement! Their ultimate prison is actually their lives without Jesus, their addictions, their emotional wounds, their hurts, and their rejection! They want freedom from this, and they need a Jehovah Rapha!!
John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” The time is urgent!! Since I started volunteering in the Fort Saskatchewan prison last fall, there have been three deaths! Three women who have attended our Compass groups are no longer with us.
I must tell you about one of these women. I will call her “J”. One evening “J” shared her story with us. She described herself as the “town drunk”. She shared about her alcohol addiction, and then she shared about how much Jesus loves her and how she is saved by grace! That evening after hearing her testimony, three other women invited Jesus into their lives. A couple of months later, one of the ladies informed me that “J” had been killed in a car crash. Alcohol was related. I wept, and yet I marveled at how big and how wide His grace is. “J”‘s life is evidence of this. Gone to heaven despite her weakness. Jesus has won! Not just in “J”s life, but in the lives of the other ladies as well. As the thief on the cross was headed for paradise with Jesus, so too is “J”.
The harvest is ready!! Although their captivity may still be present (addictions etc), the journey has begun. Jesus’ fingerprint is on their lives. As He promises all of us, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
It has been my experience that when I obeyed the call…I was so overwhelmingly blessed! This 10-year journey is not finished. It has only begun. He did not answer my prayer to develop a heart for the lost right away. Like these other women, I am a work in progress. Bit by bit He changes us if we ask. I am excited to see how God is going to use me in the future, and to witness how His power will be manifested through me. I am so privileged to be a part of His work, and am grateful that He is using me to demonstrate His love. I love being a part of these women’s journeys to salvation! I am so thankful for these new friends!