I landed an assignment in an all-male prison with an inmate population that ranges from a short prison sentence of less than a year to a sentence of life with no expected release date. Prison work was never on my radar, but I sensed that it was where God was leading me.
A few months after I started work, I met a tough-looking, tough-acting, young patient in his early 20s whose speech was heavily ridden with profanity. On his third visit with me, he came in looking a bit more somber. As it was out of character, I asked him if there was anything wrong, but he softly replied that he was okay. Clearly, though, he was not. He eventually opened up and shared that he felt discouraged, adding that he should have been released, but his family has not been helpful with his bail. He felt alone and abandoned. He spoke about his court hearings and expressed anxiety about his future.
Eyeing an opening, I quickly sent a prayer to God, then proceeded to ask my young patient if I could share something with him. He consented. We talked about the Bible, and I shared with him how Jesus also was abandoned by those He loved, and how He, too, felt lonely and isolated. I told him that Jesus is very familiar with the court system and He had to endure long, painful, and humiliating court trials. I told my young patient that if there was anyone who could truly identify with what he was going through, it would be Jesus. At this point, my young patient perked up as he asked, “Oh, yeah?” Suddenly, he exclaimed, “Forget this medical visit. Let’s just focus on this— the Bible study.” So, for almost the entire visit, we had a Bible study. He shared his experiences “running the street” and being viewed by others as a tough guy. He then confided, “But inside, I have a soft spot.” Interestingly, his form of speech changed as I noticed him carefully choosing his words in an effort to profane less. At the end of our visit, I gave him homework and told him to read Isaiah 53, which he agreed.
On his subsequent visit, and unfortunately, his last visit with me, I followed up on his homework and asked if he had read Isaiah 53. He beamed with pride in accomplishment stating that he not only read Isaiah 53 but also 4-5 additional chapters! However, when I asked him if he understood what he read, he said he read so much he did not really understand but proudly quipped, “But I read them!” So, I showed him how I study the Bible. He shared that in the deep recesses of his mind, he knew that God is real although he could not fully explain it. He said that people had told him that God has a plan for him, although he did not know what it entailed.
At the end of this last visit, I had him repeat a simple prayer: “My Heavenly Father, please let me know how much you love me and reveal to me what Your plan is in my life. AMEN.” My young, prisoner patient’s heart was softened and he became teary-eyed. Remembering his tough persona, he remarked, “I’m not supposed to cry! I’m a gangster!”
I am thankful for the Straight 2 The Heart Ministry for helping me understand that in Jesus, I have a Friend who experienced my pain and suffering through His sufferings. For many other prisoners whom I have shared Jesus’ suffering with, this message has been a wonderful revelation: that there is a loving God who is truly personal and relatable. God is tirelessly working in people’s hearts shedding His light and His love, unapologetically, in darkened places such as this prison.
Please pray for this young man (he has since been released). Please pray for the incarcerated men for a renewing of their minds and for a different kind of surrendering of their lives as they allow themselves to be arrested by the boundless love of God.
Please pray and support the Straight 2 The Heart Ministry that more people will come to know that God’s hopes, plans, and desires for each person is to set them free from the things that bind them.
*This testimony came to the S2H team from Kim