Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Visiting prisoners---some Holy Week thoughts

I was speaking with David Schuringa, President of the fine prison ministry CROSSROAD BIBLE INSTITUTE. We were discussing prison visits. He told about the first time he went behind bars, and he expressed his surprise at the great times he has had since then visiting prisoners. And then he made this statement, one that I keep uppermost in my mind: “I think these are the kind of people that Jesus would like to hang out with.”

Do you ever wonder in whose company you are the happiest?

One of the first answers that comes to mind is the company of believers...church people. But those of us who have labored in church over the years, especially in the music department, know that it's not always pleasant there. Mark Twain once said, with tongue in cheek, “Go to heaven for the climate, hell for the company.”

Another answer that might quickly surface is that of family...it's fun to be with family. But that's not always ideal, either. Mark Lowry, musician and comedian with the Bill Gaither team, once chided an audience with the words: “You know that there is someone in your family who's a problem...you'll cry at his funeral, but you don't want him over for Thanksgiving dinner! And if you can't think of anyone, chances are it's you!”

As the President of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS, I speak in various circles...church groups as well as civic groups. I enjoy all of it, and so appreciate the opportunity to tell our story. Some of these groups are professional people,in what might be called the top rungs of society.

But as I'm thinking of Jesus in this Holy Week, my mind goes back to my visit last week with a group of 30 beautiful inmates who are members of SHAKESPEARE BEHIND BARS.

I believe Jesus would like hanging out with these guys.

Jesus said in Matthew 25 that he was in prison, and we visited him. He didn't say that he visited prison...he said he was a prisoner. I interpret that to mean that when we enter the clanging gates behind bars, we are actually seeing the faces of God.

When it comes down to all the groups I meet with, I must confess that prisoners rank at the top. It's a divine experience.

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