In the October 2021 issue of the Lake Union Herald, we are recognizing the work of prison ministry. We praise God for those in our churches who give of themselves to bring hope and wholeness to those behind bars. You truly are ministering for and to Jesus.

I was in prison and you came to Me

When I was a boy, our family lived in a small city in the mountains of southern Peru. I would occasionally go with my friends to visit the prison on the edge of the city.

It was a squalid place packed with prisoners and vermin. Prison food was almost non-existent and the little they had was barely palatable. Family members found it necessary to bring food to pass through the fences where their loved ones were being held. It was not a place that I would have wanted to be confined.

I went one Sabbath afternoon with a prison ministry group based out of a local congregation to visit a prison for women. We were to lead out in a worship service with singing, prayer and Bible study. When the service concluded, there were some moments to mingle and visit with the prisoners. As I was standing in that makeshift chapel, observing those around me, I heard a female prisoner ask one of our groups, “Do you know how I can get a Sabbath School quarterly?” My ears perked up. I was immediately curious. Who was this, asking for an Adventist Bible study guide? She had her back to me so I slowly made my way around to where I could see her face. Then I heard myself say, “Linda? What are you doing here?”

Linda (not her real name) was a member of my church. The last time I had seen her was when she and her family shared a potluck Sabbath dinner with a group at our house a few months before. We still had her forgotten casserole dish in our kitchen cabinet. Shortly after that day they just disappeared, and no one seemed to know where they had gone.

As Linda and I visited that day in the prison, she shared that she had been convicted of a “white collar crime” and was now serving her sentence in this prison. She told of the shame and embarrassment that led her to quietly disappear, fearing she would be judged or condemned by her church friends.

I must say that she didn’t fit my picture of a convict. She did, however, fit into Christ’s picture of someone He loves and died for. It is precisely the Lindas of the world with whom He most identifies. In fact, He said as much just a short time before His arrest, conviction and death. His words are recorded in Matthew 25: Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; . . . I was in prison and you came to Me.” He recognized that He would be questioned on this point and further said: “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (NKJV).

In the October 2021 issue of the Lake Union Herald, we are recognizing the work of prison ministry. We praise God for those in our churches who give of themselves to bring hope and wholeness to those behind bars. You truly are ministering for and to Jesus.

 

Ken Denslow, Lake Union Conference president