Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A still small voice for prisoners

In his fine sermon series on prayer, Pastor Nate Sunday challenged us to find God in our simple, every day experiences. He used the example from I Kings 19, when God told Elijah that the Lord was about to pass by. There were strong winds, there was an earthquake, and there was fire…but God wasn’t there. After all of these sensational phenomena came a gentle whisper, and God was in that still small voice.

That challenge has prompted me and fellow church members this week to wake up to the fact that we can see God in something as simple as the first sip of a steaming hot cup of coffee in the morning, or a spectacular Lake Michigan sunset, or a favorite piece of music.

But it also prompted me to take this whole thing one step farther. Perhaps if we run across people who have a hard time seeing God anywhere, our challenge should be to help them reach this experience. As I reflected on that while waking up this morning, it dawned on me that this has been a specific goal of HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS.

I’ll use some of our experiences with women in prison as an example.

Is it even possible for women to see God in a prison complex where something as simple as daily survival has turned to hell, because of
-serious overcrowding that results in shamefully limited numbers of toilets and showers
-cruel policies that limit the numbers of toilet paper rolls and sanitary pads
-unspeakable atrocities that are witnessed in the treatment of mentally ill inmates?

The answer is in the still small voice that God provided through a simple little agency like HFP:
-driving all the way to Ypsilanti just to hold the door open for a grateful prisoner stepping into freedom after catching a parole
-shedding tears with a weeping inmate during a brutal Parole Board interview
-providing testimony that prodded a parole board to grant a compassionate release so that a cancer patient could spend her final days at home with family and friends
-persuading a reluctant State of Michigan to take a chance on a woman with a checkered past who proved she is now ready to be a productive citizen
-convincing the US Department of Justice that brutal treatment of mental patients is cruel and unusual punishment
-providing yarn worth thousands and thousands of dollars so that women could find some purpose in life by knitting garments for persons in homeless shelters.

The list goes on and on, and obviously it extends to the men in prison as well. It’s what we do on a daily basis.

May we accept Nate’s challenge and find God in the most interesting places today.

And beyond that, may we help others to see him who never dreamed they could or would.

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