Without question, the highlight of my Christmas holidays was the opportunity to visit and minister in a maximum security women's prison in Arkansas, where Revive Our Hearts has had a fruitful partnership since 2008.
At the chaplain's invitation, I had the joy of ministering to approximately 100 inmates over the course of three days, along with a small team that joined me. It was an amazing experience. We conducted an impromptu two-day conference that included many hours of studying God's Word together, group interaction, worship, prayer, and testimonies, as well as one-on-one ministry with numerous women.
I wish space permitted a fuller report, but let me share a few highlights and take-aways:
- These women have rough, rough backgrounds; many of them are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole. But grace grows best in hard, dark, desperate places. And Christ is in that place, turning ashes to beauty!
- This group was among the most hungry and responsive I have ever ministered to. Their sense of need is great, unlike so many in our churches today: "One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet" (Prov. 27:7).
- Seven women professed faith in Christ on the first day. On day two, many women expressed the need to clear their conscience over hidden sin. Five women went to the chaplain and said they need to confess crimes they have committed but never before acknowledged; they want to do whatever is necessary to be right with God and others.
- God provided an unexpected, extraordinary opportunity to encourage, pray for, and share the gospel with two of the top officers in the prison.
- I don't recall ever experiencing a greater admixture of light and darkness in one setting. I saw unspeakable evil and darkness as I listened to some of these women share their stories. Yet there was the indescribable beauty of God's transforming grace at work in so many of their lives. "The light [Christ] shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:5).
- Approximately 80% of the women in this group said they had come to know Jesus while in prison. They would not trade that blessing for anything and consider prison the best thing that has ever happened to them.
- You are a part of what God is doing in that women's prison and in so many other needy hearts and lives around the world. The women cheered when I told them that others had supported Revive Our Hearts to make it possible for our little team to spend those days with them. Thank you for your investment in this ministry!
Please pray for these precious women and for a continued move of God's Spirit in this place. Pray for Chaplain Jennifer Smith, a former inmate herself, whose life has been profoundly changed by Christ and who loves and serves these women with stunning grace and wisdom.
Grateful for our redeeming God who is setting captives free and making all things new!