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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Leadership (03/14/05)

TITLE: A Day At Dwight
By Diane Johnson
03/18/05


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Brilliant sunlight dances upon the stained-glass windows of the Chapel, sending light and warmth throughout the entire sanctuary. The empty pews await patiently in anticipation and wonder for those who will enter in and fill their vacancies. It is quiet now, but soon there will be a joyful noise with music and singing and an offering of worship and praise wafting up towards the heavenlies.

It's the third Saturday of the month, and thirty-five miles away from Dwight Correctional Center, a small band of committed ministry team members gather shortly before 7:50 a.m. in our church parking lot, making ready to car pool for prison ministry to Dwight's Chapel.

Once we arrive at Dwight, we are buzzed into the Guard House. After we sign in, give the front desk guard our driver's license, are patted down, our hand is stamped and we are given a visitor tag, we proceed with a guard to the Chapel. (This we have determined is a small price to pay to be a part of this ministry, whether we are here for our regular Saturday service, a workshop or a concert.)

The Chapel building is only a stone's throw away from the Guard House. With its bell tower, it looks like a church you would find in your very own neighborhood, although here, it looks very much out of place. However, with it's presence portraying God's hope, beauty, freedom and life, it stands bravely and almost defiantly in strikingly stark contrast to the devil's bondage, despair and darkness found prevalent in a maximum security prison. Yet amazingly, once inside, you experience its peace and beauty -- so much so, that you will easily forget that you are on prison grounds.

In preparation, the Chapel walls have readied themselves, offering their gifts of resonance and acoustics. The platform avails it's sturdy and higher ground to the feet of dancing, worship, God's message and word.

As we walk down the sidewalk towards the Chapel feeling the sun and gentle breeze on our faces, we are in filled with awe, excitement and expectation. In our hearts echo the words of Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners. To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn. To grant those who mourn in Zion, giving them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified." Isaiah 61:1-11 (NAS)

We enter in. It is good to be back because Dwight has become our second church family. With little time to set up, much busyness begins. Microphones and the sound system are checked. Guitars are tuned. Harmonicas and tambourines wait patiently. The worship team assemble to lead in worship, while other team members bathe the sanctuary in prayer. The one from the group presenting the message is prayed over for wisdom and the anointing. The Presence of the Lord is ushered in.

More excitement mounts as the ladies of Dwight begin coming in and filling the pews. They are warmly greeted by words of welcome, smiles and even hugs. It's 9:30 a.m. and the service begins. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, hearts are touched, wounds are healed, and souls are transformed and saved. With all that God is doing, no wonder time goes by so quickly.

Shortly before 11:00 a.m., the service ends and the ladies are called out to leave. There is a sadness when it's time to go, but we know that next month will come quickly, and we will again have the privilege and honor of sharing our faith in God and leading the lost to Christ.


Note: This story is about the prison ministry I have been a part of for the past three years.


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Member Comments
Member Date
Kathy Cartee03/21/05
Wonderful. Keep sharing God's Word. I pray many will find Jesus as you go in God's love. I too am a prison evangelist. I have been in prison ministry 11 years.
What a blessing!

I send along my prayer for you and the team. God Bless You

Kathy

Lynne Gaunt03/22/05
What vivid imagery to "see" the contrast of the praise-filled worship service to the dark bondage of a prison. Thanks so much for sharing this story. May God bless you richly as you serve him.
Phyllis Inniss 03/25/05
I am really impressed by the work the women of Dwight are doing for the lost souls in the prison and the imagery you conjured up about the chapel, bathing it in prayer is so beautiful. Thank God for your work and for others like you who find time to spread the message and share the Word with others less fortunate.
donna robinson03/25/05
My heart was taken both with sadness and hope at the same time. I write some people in prison; it's my small contribution. The first time I wrote someone who had never received a letter before (someone in prison I knew had asked me) I was just amazed at how much it meant. To be there on Sunday, to know that God's grace is being shown is true leadership. Going out where others would never go....