~From the Desk of PR, 2016
Some of the early stories of the prison ministry put into a blog post
After an eight year battle we officially launched the first New York State recognized program under “Prison In The Wild” at Woodbourne Correctional Facility. What fun we had!
Jesus was so generous with His presence.
I arrived at noon and my gate pass was for 12:15, perfect timing! As I drove up I gave my usual salute to the gate guards and they waved me through. Then I parked and walked to the entrance. Because this is a medium security facility it is a bit less restrictive regarding entrance procedures, than say Green Haven, was which is a maximum unit, and where we were ministering unofficially over the last seven years. However, don’t kid yourself, it is still very much a prison. Everyone was very friendly, which believe me, is not the normal for a state institution, but this is what I am always expecting everywhere I go. Once inside, a guard is assigned to walk me into the facilities chapel area. We go through another checkpoint where they review my badge and check my hand stamp. Then before I know it I am at the chapel. Over the last six months I have been holding prayer meetings and bible studies in this sanctuary.
I arrived at approximately 12:45 and had time to pray over all the seats. Then the men began to filter in around 1pm. This was the first time they had ever held a combined service with the Spanish and English churches. My nickname to the guys is Poppa Rex, (Yes, I place the extra P in Poppa on purpose, because it gives it an extra Pop!) We started the worship at 1:15 and it was wonderful. So heartfelt, so sincere, and we had some gifted singers and musicians. Then after some prayer they introduced me.
It was very humbling.
I have been trying to gain approval for “Prison In The Wild” to officially begin programs in New York State facilities for over 7.5 years only to be rejected time and again. During this process The Holy Spirit would constantly refresh me and encourage me that I was in the right place at the right time and to just press-in and continue to pray and be patient. Abba had to change my heart, and this process takes time. Not my timing, but His timing, which regardless of how uncomfortable for me is always perfect. God used this to teach me that prayer is never about the answer first, and that anytime the answer becomes my primary focus I actually wind up moving away from Christ alone.
Prayer is the power of God and that power is always-only found in Christ alone. Prayer was designed to draw us into deeper intimacy with our Savior.
So, at several intersections when I was becoming discouraged, that nothing appeared to be happening, Jesus would always breathe life into my soul and provide Abba’s perspective. As long as we see our lives, despite our circumstances, through Abba’s eyes, peace will follow. I would never try and marginalize anyone’s struggles or pain but this is how it has always worked in my life even through a veil of tears.
Philippians 4:6-7 New International Version (NIV)
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
As I said above, the guys call me Poppa Rex and it was so sweet that this first service was held on Father’s Day. So sweet. I shared a message entitled “Good, Good Father” the title of a Chris Tomlin song that I love. Knowing that in John 14:9, Jesus said, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.” I knew that if Jesus showed up they would experience the love of their heavenly Father, and that’s exactly what happened. Normally in this type of environment you might expect to receive less time than you were promised. The service was scheduled for between 1pm & 2:30. However, we were kindly given an extra half hour. That was a treasure in itself.
At the end of the meeting I extended an opportunity for anyone who felt God calling them into relationship to respond to this call. One precious older man, yes, not as old as I am, from Jamaica, answered the Holy Spirit’s invitation. Then we all prayed. The service was wonderful! We all left hugging each other and you could sense Abba’s heart of love and forgiveness moving throughout the room.