About 20 years ago I was doing ministry in Walla Walla Washington state prison (WW). When we went down to the prison it was for the whole day. We would do a two hour meeting in Maximum security section in the morning and then in the evening we would do a service in Medium security area. So, during the day between sessions we would do cell ministry or go from cell block to cell block and share one on one. I had went to medium this day and was sharing with the guys who wanted to talk. I always carried a few bibles with me so I could give them out if requested. I had shared for quite a while with a couple of guys and had spoken into one of their lives prophetically. One of the guys in the cell next to the one I was talking with asked me for a bible when I got ready to leave. I gave Him one and invited him to come to our service. He did not show up that day but He did two weeks later.
On that next trip, in the evening, as we entered the medium security section I was met at the gate by this inmate. The guy was emphatic that he receive Jesus. He frantically asked, “How do I get saved”? When I told him he needed to believe in Jesus in His heart and share Jesus or confess Jesus as His Lord, He asked, How do I do that”?
Now you must realize we are just through the gate into the yard, and had to walk across it to the chapel room yet. I suggested that he wait till we reached the chapel area to avoid a scene, but he said, “No way, I am not waiting. I want Jesus now”! Right there in the yard where everyone could see he gets on his knees and receives Jesus! This guy is praying loud and adamantly. It was something!
When we reached the chapel, I asked him what was the rush. (I had noticed that he had a bandage on his neck but it did not look like something severe). He explained. He had never heard about Jesus the way I had presented it that day, two weeks before in the cell block, which had provoked him to ask me for a bible. His cellmate came back to the cell, saw him reading the bible and proceeded to have a contract put on him. In chow line a few days later a guy had stuck him with an ice-pick like knife (called a shive). The ice pick had missed the jugular vein and he had survived the attack. He said, “ If they wanted to “shive” me for just reading the book, It must be true. He related that because of the attack just for reading the book, he had to have Jesus and walk with Him”. He became quite a leader in the unit. He had no fear and became a steadfast Jesus follower.
Anyone who has been around me much knows that I tend to be a bit different from that which is found in most traditional Christians. I am a guy that drives most people a bit nuts. I am a radical, sold out Christ follower. I don’t back up, sit down nor turn aside. When I was in my 30”s and freshly inducted into traditional Christendom, people would tell me that it was ok for me to be a bit excited and then they would tell me that I would settle down soon. I would look at them and say, “I hope not”! Most who know me now realize I have probably became more excited about God since then and a lot more radical in my stand.
At the time this event happened in WW prison I was also doing county jail ministry. I would go every Sunday afternoon and do a service in the county jail for both the men and the women locked up there. During the week, on Thursday evening, I would go to the jail and do cell ministry. I would go to the various “pods” (a general area that would have 12 cells and a “day room” with tables and tv) and share or pray with those interested. There was a man there doing 6 months or so of a sentence. He came to the meetings on Sunday afternoon and when I would go to the pods on Thursday, if I entered the one he was in, he would always cause some sort of trouble or schism. On Sundays he was always talking, and at times would do whatever he could to cause trouble.
On several occasions I would have a guard come and send him back to his cell for disrupting the meetings. I would make him stay out for a couple of weeks but then I would let him back in. He always said he would be good but it never happened.
One Sunday afternoon the whole group in the chapel service was rowdy. They did not want to have a gospel meeting but instead decided that the service would be a time for them to visit and play… the ringleader was my favorite troublemaker. I tried to get their attention but it was not happening. Chapel was the only place where all the inmates from the different pods could gather and do business or talk with each other. That day they decided to take over… My troublemaker guy badmouthed me a bit and all the group laughed. I would say something and they would all mock me. Now realize this, I am alone with about 35 inmates with two locked doors between me and the guards and on this Sunday there is only one guard at the station. He will not be coming to help…
As the ruckus in the chapel room gains speed, I sit down on a stool that was there for me to use. I looked around, saw them all smiling in triumph laughing at me, and waited. Inside I am starting to get a bit hot but not with anger. It was more like indignation and a holy boldness I have felt a few times before rising up in me.
I was sitting on a stool, holding my bible, waiting for the Spirit. I knew He was about to do something crazy. Picture this; My troublemaker is smiling at me in triumph while others are laughing. I was quite a show… sitting there doing nothing. In a moment I stood up, looked at them all and said very quietly, “Let’s talk about my Jesus a bit”, and with that I threw my bible at the wall to my left with quite a bit of force and continued with, We won’t be needing that”!
As the bible hit the wall all my papers and notes that I had stuffed in it went flying all over the place. I mean they were floating around and it looked like the whole bible had come apart. As my bible slid down the wall you could have heard a pin drop in the room. I sat back down on the stool and for an hour quietly talked to them about My Jesus. They had questions I answered and I had words I shared… it was a truly holy time.
During the time I sat and talked an amazing thing happened. My troublemaker got up went over and picked up my bible and all the papers. He proceeded to gently straighten every page in my book and folded all my papers neatly and placed them back inside it.
At the end of the time a young man came up to me and said, “I am from Washington DC and I got caught in Seattle for a crime I did back east. They are taking me back to DC by bus and we are picking up other prisoners on the way. We only stopped here for two days.” He continued, “I have never heard of Jesus before and I would really be interested in knowing Him, can you help me”? He stated, “ I have never felt such power nor seen or experienced anything like what just happened.” He was in tears, pleading with me to help him find Jesus. I prayed for him, gave him a bible and he left the room back to his cell. I never saw him again.
You remember the troublemaker, he was watching while I talked and prayed with that young man from DC. When I finished he walked up to me and with both hands gently offered my bible to me. It was all straightened out and looked pretty good for all it had been through. From that day my troublemaker never missed a meeting nor caused any trouble. Instead, he took care to make sure everyone was quiet and orderly while the service was going on. He handed out the music, bibles and studies I would bring. In his pod he led a bible study and when I came in on Thursdays he always requested me to come visit. I never heard him say “the sinners prayer” and never asked him to… but he sure loved the Lord and I never saw him without a bible under his arm or in his hands. I bought him a nice one several weeks after the incident, when I saw that the change in him was real. He cherished that book and even more He cherished Jesus. He ended up getting out early for good behavior. Ha who would have thought.
Now I have told you a couple stories of incidents I encountered while doing jail or prison ministry. You may be asking why and what is the bond in these two different stories. First you should know that I live to know Jesus, to experience a real Gospel and to fulfill His desire for my life. I am a Holy Ghost man, sold out. I do not put together sermons nor plan bible studies nor prepare papers with a lot of planning. I live by the voice of God and His presence. In both incidences I have related, there is a common thread, hearing from the Lord.
Many people ask me how to be sure that they are hearing God as opposed to themselves or the enemy. The question is not really about hearing. It is about trust. How can we trust this God whom we cannot see? Do we trust what we read in the bible as a foundation to our relationship? Do we trust the experiences written for us, so we may have confidence in this Great God written about in its pages? If we can, how may we demonstrate this trust and how can we build on the foundation demonstrated in the lives of those in the bible?
Hearing is like breathing, it is natural to hear the voice of God. He is whom He says He is. We are created to be naturally supernatural. We need to strive to enter the rest of believing, not swallow doubt and fear. I started by finding a scripture and decided or choosing to believe it. I put it to the test. Then when I knew that one was mine and real, I picked another promise, ate it, figured out what and how it revealed God’s nature and added it to my heart. Sometimes it would take me months to wade through my own fears or doubts and to rid myself of the “me” factor. The reality of Father’s character soon began to take shape like a jigsaw puzzle. As you add pieces to it soon a picture starts to develop and each piece you add makes the next piece easier to see. So it is with intimacy with Father… one step or piece at a time…
Will write more later, neil