Thursday, June 11, 2015

Jail Ministry: A Guest Post

Today I'm pleased to feature a guest post from Annie Washburn.  She has an interesting ministry in several local jails!  Read on to find out more about what she does and how you can get involved!
-Annie Lima

Ever toss a pebble into a completely still pool of water?  Ever watch how far the ripples coming from that little pebble continue?  Basically they keep going and going, effecting the whole pool.  Ever consider what kind of ripple you desire to send out, as we make our splash in the pool of life? 

Rutherford County Jail in Murfreesboro, TN
I began going to the local jail the summer of 2014 because I wanted to bring the presence of the Heavenly Father and His Son into a dismal place.  Picture a small, brown concrete room, 15 by 15 square feet.  It has 4 metal bunks, a small round metal table with 4 metal stools attached and also a small square metal table with 2 metal stools attached .

It often can have as many as 20 ladies...their plastic matts cover just about all of the floor space,  so there is no where to step without possibly stepping on someone.   Imagine the noise level....especially if there is contention and foul spirited inmates.  No privacy, no where to "get away",  12 to 20 women stuck together... day in day out, for months at a time, sometimes years.

Daily life? The inmates are awaken about 7am with the heavy metal door being open to bring breakfast.  They eat and lay back down in a darkened cell.  If they have TV privileges, the TV may be turned on.  At about 11 am, lunch is brought.  They sit around until supper, then they sit around until they fall asleep for the night.  When I go in at 10 am on Mondays, the cell is still dark.  They turn the lights on for my visit.  I do not know what time the lights come on if I am not there.

Sometimes, a few of them may go out for "work release".  That is not common.  That entails working in the jail garden, cleaning some state buildings, or helping with mailings.

My name is Annie, I am the bride of Tom of 25 years and the mother of 7, ages 24 to 11.  As I now have more adult children than minors in our home, I have had less schooling to teach and more time to invest in our community.  I chose visiting the ladies in jail as my way of investing into our community.

I am writing this to ask for help to commit to pray for at least one, if not two of the inmates and their children.  It truly makes a difference.  Since others have committed to help me by prayer, it feels like we are on the winning side of what is happening in that cell.
It will not be easy for you though, because:
#1. You don't know them personally, so your prayers have to be led by the Holy Spirit. 
#2.  I may not be able to give you updates on what is happening with your particular lady.  Some of them get moved to other jails or released.  To keep up with them, and update you, takes more time that I have in my day. :0)
#3. The devil wants them to stay chained in spiritual darkness so he will not appreciate you battling for them to break free.

Why is it so important to have prayer for the ladies?  It softens their hearts, they become open to having a relationship with the Heavenly Father and His Son.  Let me give you an example of answered prayer.  There is an older lady (late 50's) who came in and out of the jail three times (she currently will be in for awhile).  Let's call her Vivian.  She was always laying on her bunk and had her face towards the wall while I visited, I never heard her talk. 

As I prayed for her, the Father always gave me scriptures for her, that dealt with wanting to bring healing to her hurts and also He was wooing her to Him.  I would write these scriptures on a notecard and give them to her weekly, for months.

Back in February, some of the ladies were getting baptized.  I was able to go into their cell just before we went to the room with the tub.  The ladies were in an awed hush, nervous and excited.  While we were waiting, I heard someone explaining to the ladies that were getting baptized, that they better not take what they are doing lightly.  They are making a commitment and need to walk responsibly.  I was surprised to see it was Vivian explaining scriptural truths to the ladies.  I realized she had much scriptural understanding.

After the baptism, I noticed Vivian, sitting by herself crying.  I went over and hugged her and begged her to come back to her Father.  She had no response.

In March, Vivian came up to me and in a tough and hard voice explained to me that she wanted nothing to do with God and preferred her drugs.  I said I was sorry for her choice, does she ever think she would come back to God?  She said something like, if He wants her, He could talk to her.  I said how it seems like He has been doing that for months, through the scriptures He was giving me to give to her.....didn't she think so?  She was silent and walked away.

One beautiful Sabbath day in April, our whole family was sitting at the table eating and I felt strongly impressed to describe each of the ladies in jail to my family.  As I talked about Vivian, my husband started asking me a lot of questions about her.  His heart was so touched for her, that he started praying for her hurts to be healed.

The next time I visited the jail, as I was leaving, Vivian came up to me and gave me a hug and thanked me for coming.  I was stunned.  Each week she has been getting happier and happier.  The middle of May, she asked if I could bring her a bible.  I was able to get her one and gave it to her June 1st.  She was so tickled.  Prayer made the difference!

What is also crucial, is they need to be built up and grounded in a relationship with Him, before they are released.  Why?  How many of you have heard someone sneer and say something like "So and so had a jail house conversion" and go on to talk about how they doubt it will stick?
What would happen if words of faith were spoken over them and not words of failure?  What would happen if prayers of faith were spoken for them, to strengthen them against the wiles of the enemy?  I know, I know many bad people continue in their wicked ways and continue to break peoples hearts.  But maybe just maybe, this inmate won't be that one.

It is so difficult for inmates to succeed when they are released.  They have to overcome so many obstacles.  Where do they live?  How do they get a job with no car to take them to it, let alone their record being considered?  Who do they turn to for encouragement to walk right?  So often when they go back to where they came from, they are overcome  back into a life of sin.  The influences of their family and friends are too strong. 

My hope is that the ladies who become believers in jail will be able to help and encourage each other when they get out, to continue walking in righteousness, as opposed to encouraging each other back into the life they led before being in jail. 

If you are disciplined and able to commit to praying for one or two of these ladies, please contact me and I will send you a list of who is available to commit to, for your prayer coverage.  

With much thankfulness and appreciation,  

Annie Washburn

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