I would appreciate your prayers today as I travel to Perry Correctional Institute which is a level 3 security prison for men.
The movie Courageous has been used in the prison and had an impact on many of inmates.
A group of the inmates are about to go through The Resolution for Men Bible Study which I had the privilege of helping with the development of that curriculum. It has been used in our church, in many other churches, and it is so humbling to think of these guys going through it together in prison. Years after my involvement, I constantly hear how God is using that move and the 3 curriculums that went along with it.
In order to kickoff this campaign, I have been asked to come and preach to the men for about 2 hours today. I have no idea how many men or what type of setting this is going to be in honestly. I can bring my Bible and that’s about it.
If you wouldn’t mind praying, I would appreciate it so much. I will be with them from 12-2. Equipping these guys to live for Christ and be men of God in a prison setting will be challenging, but I have too much confidence in the power of God’s Word to think that our time will be wasted (Isa. 55:8-9).
But I’ve already gotten some pretty excellent prayer support.
No, Daddy Isn’t Staying in Prison
During family devotion the other night, we were reading in Luke 4 about Jesus’ ministry beginnings. We just happened to read where Jesus read these words in the synagogue:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,because he has anointed meto proclaim good news to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captivesand recovering of sight to the blind,to set at liberty those who are oppressed,to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” -Luke 4:18-19
I talked with the children about going to the prison to preach. I thought it would be funny to show them how they screen you and go through checkpoints. Let’s just say some of the children thought it was hilarious, and it unnerved one of them.
For whatever reason, the boys wanted to know the other day if either my wife or myself had been to prison before. I told them a little bit about being briefly detained in a prison on a mission trip before and they were somewhat intrigued. I tried to make it sound awesome and Amanda kept reassuring them, “Now, Daddy wasn’t doing anything wrong. Don’t tell people that your daddy was in prison.”
We read the above passage on Saturday night and prayed for the men.
On Sunday night, our children had been fast asleep (or so I thought) when, all of a sudden, Obadiah came downstairs and said he couldn’t sleep because his heart was sad.
Thinking he was trying to stall, I got him back in bed. By the time I reached the bottom stair, he was sobbing in his bed. I went upstairs expecting to need to handle a discipline issue, but it was a different scenario.
“Obadiah, why is your heart so sad? You really need to get some sleep.”
“Well, Dad, I can’t go to sleep because I don’t want you to go to jail.”
“Buddy, Dad isn’t going to jail to stay. I’m going to preach and help the men out.”
“When will you come back?”
“Son, I will be home at my normal time.”
“But what if those men don’t want to hear about Jesus and they try to get you? I don’t want anything to happen to you!”
“Son, nothing is going to happen to Dad. While these men are in prison, Jesus has been changing their hearts. They are asking Dad to come and share the Bible with them. Their bad decisions are in their past, but they are now forgiven and their lives are being changed. But I promise you that I will be extra safe there.”
To ease his sensitive heart, he wanted to pray over me as we laid in bed. I was happy to oblige. This 6-year-old took his hands and rubbed my face as he prayed that God would keep his father safe as he preaches Jesus and that the men wouldn’t be angry at what his father said.
I would say that I am pretty well prayer-covered if you ask me!
Praying helped but I also told him to rehearse the Scripture he was reading earlier that day over and over in his head to calm his soul. It apparently worked.
I will come back and update this post later when I can report what God did among us. I know that Obadiah will appreciate it at least!
Thank you for your prayers!
I am still beaming from what God did among us today.
Being escorted by a volunteer chaplain through the checkpoints of the facility, I learned a great deal about the inmates and their activities. We eventually arrived at a meeting room where we were greeted by some of the nicest guys you will ever meet in your life. These gentlemen are inmates who also serve as leaders in the Bible studies on campus.
As inmates filed in the room, I was greeted with handshakes and hugs of guys who were so gracious of me simply coming. I didn’t realize that my association with the study meant so much to them. This study is really making an impact throughout the prison.
These guys have been doing these Courageous studies, and they have been getting in deep. In our time together, I shared with these guys from God’s Word and from personal experience, and they hung on every word.
I encouraged them to deal with the baggage in their past. While tears were shed as we got real with one another, the most powerful thing was to watch these guys open up their Resolution studies and see sections marked and hear them talk about how they had applied these truths in their lives.
Some of their successes were based on what happened as a result, but many of their successes were simply based upon their obedience.
If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. -Romans 12:18
One spoke of how he had applied what the Bible said to do but he didn’t know what to do next. A few of them asked how they could practically show Jesus to their families while they were contained within these prison walls.
During our time together and hanging around talking with them individually afterwards, I was so impacted by these brothers and their commitment to Christ.
I was also humbled by the small things that they longed for (which I take for granted): the lake, shrimp dip, and their town’s main street.
One man asked if our church was large and if we were doing anything to reach out to those in prison. I was so honored to share about the men that go every week to McCormick and the women that serve at Leath weekly.
We talked about grace, forgiveness, second chances, and how to do the best with the chance afforded them.
One of the men actually asked me how he could pray for me and my family this week. Honestly, as a pastor, that will be one of the few times that happens within a week. I was moved that he wanted to pray for me and my family.
I have a list of one man’s family members that he asked me to pray for. We prayed for them by name before dinner tonight.
I’ve got some new pen pals as well to offer encouragement.
I shared with the group how everyone who had been involved with Courageous at certain levels had come under spiritual attack during the process. I went into details with them I have never shared here, but I discussed how our family was attacked ruthlessly during the entire process until the very day it was completed.
Afterwards, a young man came up to me and said, “I want to thank you for enduring through all that stuff you went through. When you go home today, tell your wife thank you for hanging in there too. You didn’t know me, but you were hanging in there for me. I needed you. You don’t know the impact this study has been here within these walls. I’m so glad you didn’t quit.”
As we embraced, I was overwhelmed with gratitude to God for allowing me to play a small role in these guys’ lives.
I know that jailhouse religion exists, and I think I saw it in some of the men today, but I also saw a level of genuine discipleship in others that would convict the fire out of you. Those brothers are the real deal.
The Change in Our Home
Obadiah (and the rest of the crew) were happy to see that I didn’t stay overnight at the jail (even though the warden told me they had some vacant rooms). Obadiah was very relieved that no one tried to hurt me.
To be quite honest, I hugged my family a little tighter tonight because I knew some of my new friends didn’t have that luxury.
I recreated the scene for the family at the dinner table tonight. When I showed that these guys’ first reaction was to hug me, Obadiah’s eyes got so large. “Really?! Wow!”
As I shared what happened with them, Obadiah said, “Dad, promise me next time you go that you will take me with you! I want to meet them!”
“Now, wait a minute. You didn’t want me to go last night! What changed?”
“Yeah, but now I know they are different. You told me how Jesus is changing their lives, and I just want to see it!”
Rest assured, he will go with me as soon as they will let him.
And I will be going back as well.
I’ve got brothers in there.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.
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