Thursday, November 05, 2009

Page 273

Yesterday I went to jail.

Wait. It’s not like that… I meant to go. That is, I was only visiting and I got to leave when I wanted to. See, every Tuesday, Tom goes to the Anderson County Detention Center to visit the guys there and lead a Bible Study for whoever wants to come. This ministry started off slowly and has at times been discouraging, but through the Lord’s blessing and Tom’s consistency, it has become something really special. Lately Tom always says, “God is really doing something out there at the jail!” Guys are growing, reaching out to their cellmates (they call ‘em “cellies”) and even singing! Lately they have just had this intense desire to sing praises, and they sing with all of their heart and voice, but they only know a couple of hymns; one of which is, Will the Circle Be Unbroken… whoa. So Tom asked me to go with him, bring a guitar out there and teach those guys some of our really simple worship songs.

I have to admit that I was a bit nervous going in there. You have to pass under a metal detector to sign in. You walk into what they call a “trap” which is basically an enclosed space between two steel doors. One opens, you walk in, and it closes. Then the other opens and you get to walk out. We walked down an eerily quiet and close corridor lined with more steel traps. Finally we made it to Unit 2 and walked into the block. This is a big, open room filled with tables that are bolted to the floor. The perimeter of the block is all cells… more steel doors with one little window in them. As we walked in, the block was totally deserted. Everyone was still in his cell. I nervously looked around at the cell doors surrounding the room and saw surly faces passing by the windows. Then, all of a sudden, one guy looking out of his window saw Tom… His face broke open into the widest smile! He shouted for Tom and then motioned for a cellmate to come look. Another face in the window saw Tom and broke open in palpable joy!

As the guard opened the cell doors for free time on the block, men in orange jump suits came out of doors from all over the place, but 13 of the guys were different than the rest. They carried their Bibles, shouted Tom’s name and rushed down the stairs to see him. They were laughing, hugging and so excited to see their friend… their pastor. We couldn’t even start Bible Study because they were so eager to share miraculous stories of God’s faithfulness to them with Tom. They were literally busting at the seams with the Holy Spirit’s contagious joy! We stood up and sang songs together and it made me cry to hear their worship! They were simply so happy to be praising and to have new songs to sing! They sang their hearts out… I couldn’t hear the guitar or myself singing! After that, they prayed and thanked Jesus for their brothers, thanked Him for their time in jail and thanked Him that He rescued them… wow.

I wish you could meet those guys. I wish you could see their passion for the Lord and how much they love Tom. As we were leaving, I walked back over to the metal detector and the visitor’s log. It was a large, leather bound book held together with duct tape on the spine. It was on page 273 that Tom wrote down our names and the day’s date and time. I remembered Matthew 25 and how our Lord said, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'… 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Tom has been going to that jail every Tuesday for over two years to serve Jesus and to serve those guys he loves so much. His name is in that visitor’s log over 100 times. It’s not a flashy, trendy or cool way to do ministry, but it’s sweet and real and it’s the kingdom of God being built.

1 comment:

Molly and Brad said...

Lee, I don't even know what to say except thank you SO MUCH for sharing such a precious story. I felt like I was there and I've always wondered what it was like for Tom to go. I need to be praying for those guys. I admit that it has never even crossed my mind to pray for them until now. I just don't think about them. Thank you for reminding us of "the least of these" and for being part of it.

Cluster Map