Every visit to prison is a unique experience. Not one is ever the same. Edith and I went in this particular day with another team, not knowing what to expect. As our groups settled in, five new ladies joined us. We had approximately 10-12 inmates that day, so we decided to break up into two smaller groups. Edith and I moved to one side of the chapel, and the five new ladies chose to join us in our circle of chairs.
As we started the lesson on the Father’s heart, each woman began to get a little uncomfortable. One after the other began to share with us that they did not think God would want a relationship with any of them, let alone talk with them. Each one had a reason they thought they were unworthy — from the crimes they had committed, to the ways they had dismissed Him in their lives.
Edith and I shared that we knew for sure that God loved us and desired to have a relationship with us…which led the women to ask how you can know for sure. We began to share about God’s heart for people from the beginning of time. We talked about how, because of our sin and internal desire to do things our own way, we became separated from God. When we asked the ladies if this made sense, two of them said they did not get what we were trying to say. So Edith showed them the picture in the Compass of the people on earth who were trying to reach God, but who soon realized they were unable to make themselves good enough to have relationship with such a holy Being. We talked about how we can sometimes do good for a short period of time, but then we fail and fall short quickly, because we’re trying in our own strength. They understood then that it was impossible for us to make ourselves worthy, good, or holy out of our own strength. They understood the big gap between God and us, and saw that if anything could be done about it, it would need to come from God, because we are incapable of consistent sinlessness.
Once all the women understood our dilemma before God, we moved on to share that God did do something to bridge the gap between Him and humankind, out of His great love for us. We began to share how God had sent Jesus His Son into the world to represent His heart for people in ministry. We went on to dialogue about how Jesus had gone to the cross out of His own free will in order to take all our sin and poor choices onto Himself. Today, if we receive him as Lord and Savior, we will be viewed through His work on the cross as clean, holy, and sinless in the eyes of God.
Three of the women did not understand how that could happen. Edith showed them a picture of the cross bridging the gap between the people on earth and heaven, and shared how Christ’s work on the cross made a way for us to have relationship with God. One woman still did not understand the concept. Then I remembered an analogy from school, so I began to share with them this metaphor. I said, “All of you have been before a judge at one time or another, so just imagine you are back there in the courtroom. This time, the judge pronounces the death sentence for your crime, and sentences you to the electric chair. But before you can even take in the weight of it, the judge stands up, takes off his robe, and goes to the chair in your place, giving his life for your crime. You are set free, your debt is paid in full, and you are free to go.”
All of the women were stunned. Tears came to their eyes as we shared that through Jesus, they could have a clean slate – an opportunity for a “do over” – a way to walk in close relationship with God. We shared that this was all God’s idea because He loved them so much and longed to be intimately connected to them.
One of the ladies asked, “Is that really true? I can have a fresh start?” The smile that broke out on her face was radiant. The other four women had tears running down their faces as well. Edith shared that she and I had received this free gift of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, and have been living in a relationship with God ever since because of it. That is how we know that we know it is a reality and open to anyone. I asked them if they wanted to receive this free gift Jesus had died to provide for them. Each one unanimously said “YES”!! Each one prayed to receive Christ that day, overwhelmed by Jesus’ gift to them. Each one had a new awareness that God had orchestrated all of this because He loves them and wanted so much to have a relationship with them.
Edith and I left the prison that day in awe of God and His love for women, and grateful for the way He had met the two of us. God helped us share His story in multiple ways by the guidance of his Holy Spirit, so that five women could understand His love for them. Be assured that no matter where and with whom we find ourselves, He will equip us with the words we need to make His message clear.