Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Conversation (face to face) (10/07/10)
TITLE: The Round Table With Square Pegs
By Nancy Sullivan
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I look forward to these roundtable discussions. I've only been a mentor in prison ministry for few weeks, but these precious souls have captured a big piece of my heart.
They made bad choices that, for some, were born out of worse surroundings and cost them their freedom.
In the shadow of chain-link fences, lined and topped with huge spirals of razor wire, cheerful mentors gather in small groups. The process of being admitted through sets of steel gates and doors gives us a brief glimpse of a life of confinement. Once inside the receiving area, we complete the required drill of signing in and being searched.
The common room gradually fills with the lively sounds of familiar voices as we greet each other, exchange occasional hugs, then settle into our small, special groups at the round tables. The sea of gray scrubs fades as the smiles brighten. Our leader steps up to the podium for words of welcome, announcements, and an opening prayer.
For the next hour-and-a-half, about fifty women of all ages and from all walks of life will have an anointed time of sharing, studying, and praying. This is their time. While one may speak freely about her struggles, another will remain guarded. We honor their personal disclosures with confidentiality. The goal is not to glean information, rather to share the love of God and encourage them to trust Him in all things.
Each one participates in reading the scriptures that are a part of that week's study. Digressions from a prepared study outline are welcomed; the more they share, the more effective our time together. My prayer is for wisdom and good recall of God's Word to apply to their questions and challenges.
They are excited about their Christmas party that's being given by the mentors. They get to make a few requests for their favorite snacks, and the mentors will decorate their respective tables. In answer to the question, "What would you like to see at our table?" their replies were varied; however, all agreed they would like to see some some sparkles and "shiny things."
"Snowmen and snowflakes," was the request from my first young peg whose home is in the northern part of the country. Her face lit up at memories of ice skating outdoors and her grandma's special hot spiced cider made with red hots. She's also looking forward to her first visitor at Christmas. Her father is coming to see her. Three-and-half-years of waiting for a familiar face.
"Anything blue, baby blue. I don't really care what else is there," peg number two contributed. This will work great with the snow theme.
"I like angels. And lights," came the final request from my Bible scholar, peg #3. Sure hope I can make the second part of her request happen. "And something with music." My assignment just took a difficult turn, given our all-plastic restrictions.
Long before we're ready, it's time to join the others in a big circle around the room for a closing song and prayer. More hugs, "I love you's", and "See you next time's", then we mentors get to rejoin freedom.
My prayer for these young women is that, for the duration of their stay, they will learn to experience spiritual freedom behind these intimidating gates, fences, and razor coils. And, when they are square pegs no more, they will have become totally free in the knowledge of who they are in Jesus Christ.
"The Lord sets the prisoners free." Psalm 146:7b.
Repeat offender rates drop dramatically for inmates who are involved in Prison Ministry. Because of the need for more volunteers in our state, there is a two-year waiting list of inmates who seek to be mentored.
"I was in prison, and you came to Me." Matthew 26:36b
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