It shattered. Rolled right out and fell on the floor into a thousand pieces in front of me. My stereotype shattered. After carrying it many years, I wasn’t sure what to think. What would be the basis of my thoughts?
The smell of second hand smoke clung to most of the men in the room. That fit the mold. Many were tattooed from head to toe. That fit the mold, too. But this. This didn’t fit. I couldn’t find a place for this in my tiny mind. I sat watching in amazement over the simplest task.
“Turn with me to the book of Ezra,” the speaker called. Pages rustled as those with Bibles flipped through the Old Testament looking for Ezra. The man in front of me turned, his face confused. I leaned my Bible towards him so he could read the name of the book; perhaps he didn’t hear it. Through the thick lenses, his eyes crinkled and his brow scrunched up. He absentmindedly pushed up the glasses and blinked at me. “EZ-RA,” I repeated in a course whisper.
His head turned away as he looked in the large print Bible in his lap. He turned back with the Bible tilted as if to ask, “Did I find it?” But before I could say anything else, the guy beside me reached out for the Bible. This ebony man in the striped jumpsuit and the gold-capped teeth flipped through the Bible with familiarity, located Ezra, and handed it back to his fellow prisoner.
I was at a prison revival service. And there in the passing back and forth of one inmate’s large print version of God’s Word, my stereotype fell and shattered on the floor. Prisoners aren’t supposed to help each other. They are supposed to beat up on each other and act tough. They don’t smile and help each other find books of the Bible. The prisoners I thought I knew didn’t even have Bibles. They read girlie magazines and traded them for cigarettes.
But these were no ordinary prisoners. They were no ordinary men. These were convicts called by God to be a light in a dark place. They were born again, washed by the blood of the Lamb believers. These men were chosen to be a part of the N.O.B.T.S. (New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) prison ministry degree program. They were in charge of this revival called Rekindling The Passion. They were the preachers, the singers, and the worshippers. These were men of God. These were the men responsible – responsible for rekindling the passion in me.
My friends, do you know what a Christian looks like? I do. His skin is dark and his smile is bright. You might just catch a glimpse of gold in his grin, and he reaches out to point the way when you are lost.
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40 NIV
That is beautiful!!! God bless these men and help them reach many others inside and outside of those bars.
This is so poignant Carol!!
I cry each and everytime you write about these men. I think about Isaiah passage 60 or 61..setting the captives free…proclaiming liberty….you know it. 🙂
Been praying for you!
Wow! Let me pull the plank out of my eye!! So many times I think I know and then someone knocks me upside the head to get my attention! I got that knock just now!
I love, love, love when you write about these men! Love it!
These posts are humbling, convicting, encouraging…such a blessing, Carol!
So glad you share about all of this!
Wow…it must really be something to work with prisoners!
This really touched my heart. My dad is in prison and has been for a long time-and may stay. Praise God he is saved though-I would just love to see him in one of these services as I know he’s attended some! Thanks for the happy tears! Thanks too for your comment on my blog earlier!
Wow…I came over here from Barbara’s blog the Ivy Path. This post hit me right between the eyes. I had an experience kind of like this one a few weeks ago and posted about it.
What a blessing to be able to see with the eyes of Jesus.
Love your blog, by the way!
I love your story. I do prison ministry also, helping to run a worship service in a maximum security men’s prison. As you said here, they are no ordinary men. Jesus is so black and white in prison isn’t He? No arguing theology or debating points or looking for nuance. The truth of grace resonates deeply! On my blog I’ve written about these experiences because they’ve changed me…for the better.
Blessings on this minsitry!
Wow. Just, wow. What a testimony to our own prejudices and hang ups, and how God doesn’t care about any of that!
[…] of the men at my table were in the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary prison ministry degree program. (Yeah, I know. It’s a mouth-full.) I questioned those three again. “But what about your degree? […]