written by Cindy Christensen
It was our last Tuesday night before Christmas at the EYOC. The previous three and a half months had been tough. The turnover rate of girls is high at the Young Offenders Prison, so the group we saw all fall was ever-changing. We hadn’t had many spiritually-charged moments with them, and, at times, it almost felt as though God was silent.
Terry picked me up that night, at the usual time. It was snowing and sleeting, but we still had plenty of time to get there. I had the movie that we were going to show the girls, and some other volunteers were bringing extra food – crackers and meats and cheese and cookies. It was going to be a time of fun and good food.
As Terry and I approached the Yellowhead Trail, the sleet began coming down even harder. With a little bit of maneuvering, we established our place on the highway and increased our speed to the posted 100 km/h. Our chatter was light and we were looking forward to our evening of Christmas cheer.
We didn’t know then, that God had a different plan.
Have you ever tried driving at 100km/h in sleet and snow, without a windshield wiper? Well, at that very moment, we did. To both of our amazement, the windshield wiper on the driver’s side flew off, in a helicopter fashion, into the great unknown. It went up and then disappeared. We looked at each other in absolute shock, brought our wits back to the present moment, and began to look for a side road to pull off on. Luckily, there was one approaching and with great skill in a blinding snow storm – we pulled off onto the side road.
We sat there for a moment, amidst laughter and wonderment. It was that kind of time when extreme understanding and pure insanity were almost inseparable. We had often prayed and told God that we were willing to be used by Him in whatever He needed done with the girls at the EYOC. Right now, it was looking like He needed us to NOT be there at all.
The practical soon took over. In minutes, my husband was on his way to rescue us, and phone calls were made to the other members of our team to change our plan for the evening, even though we weren’t really sure what the ‘plan’ was. Now, all that Terry and I could do was wait. As we talked, we realized that God had us on an adventure that night. It was like He was asking us if we trusted Him enough to let Him plan the events of the evening. The funny thing was, at that moment – we really didn’t have a choice.
About the time we should have been starting our time with the girls at the prison, Terry and I were on the road again in a new vehicle as my husband took care of the windshield-wiperless car.
As we arrived to the prison – very late – there were guests caroling with the girls. Even before the carolers had left, one of the girls began telling us about how she had been baptized that week. She had a great abundance of joy overflowing out of her, more than we had ever seen before. Soon, the carolers were gone and we kind of looked at each other trying to think what we should do now.
Well, when in doubt – bring out the food.
And that’s what we did. As we were gathered around the table, eating, the girl who had been baptized continued to tell us about how she believed God and had accepted Him and then went on to get baptized at the chapel. Her joy was captivating and the other girls were listening intently to what she was saying. Even while she was talking, another one of the girls began asking questions about baptism.
If our schedule had not been altered, we would have watched a movie for the entire time, but instead, God knew that this new child of His needed to proclaim her faith to other believers and then, like only God can, He gave her words to proclaim His message of hope to the others.
And if that wasn’t enough…God also gave us a glimmer of a renewed relationship with one of the guards. Because of our ‘party’ food, this guard had come to sit with us and eat with us. She was never one of the ones that – how should I say it – really enjoyed our presence there. However, that night, we visited with her and at the end of our time, she joined our circle of prayer.
If you had been a fly on the wall that night, you would have seen inmates, volunteers, and a prison guard, holding hands in a circle, asking God to be a presence on that unit over Christmas.