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The Incarcerated Convert

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“Wait,” she yelled out from the audience. “Where in the Bible are we? I can’t find it.” I stared at her incredulously for a moment. My mind scrambling for an answer. “No,” I answered, “I am just giving you a list of important steps to building your spiritual house. We aren’t reading from the Bible right now.”

A few minutes later I asked, “And who do you think the foundation of our spiritual house is?”  Again from the audience. “I think it’s me. In here. In my heart,” she said as she pointed to her chest.

That wasn’t the answer they gave me in the first service at the Minnesota Women’s Correctional Facility. The first service was filled with women who had trusted Jesus and were in the prison’s discipleship program. When I asked them who the foundation is, they yelled out: “Jesus!” They had been tracking with me and were right on cue.

But the second service was new to me. Confusion reigned. In the past, the second service was filled with more scoffers. Women who rolled their eyes at me. But I don’t mind that. At least they were listening, even if I was making them mad. But here we were. Confusion and chaos ruled the day. Not to mention the two women in front who passed notes and then stared intently at me as if it would distract me from noticing. And the other two women who looked at the window behind me and laughed until I felt paranoid that someone was standing outside watching us. But, as it turned out, they were laughing at their own reflection.

Oh sure, there were a couple of women listening with interest. One to my far left sat all by herself and one or two in the middle of the crowd, seemed to drink in what I said. I tried to concentrate on those few, but my own mind was swirling, trying to make sense of what I was saying. It was as if I was outside my own body watching this crazy scene unfold.

I finished my message and called the prayer team up to prepare to minister to the women who desired it along with our worship team to play quietly while we prayed. I felt lost. I usually stand at the side to pray with the women too, but instead I went to the back of the room. I stood there, sulking, watching the women pray with the prisoners. I felt disconcerted. I felt a little sorry for myself and my failure to communicate well. I didn’t feel like praying with anyone.  

Then it happened. The girl way at the front who had been listening to me turned around to look at me and silently mouthed, “Are you praying?” I nodded. How could I say no?

She walked down the aisle towards me. When we were face to face, she started talking about how she overthinks things and doesn’t know what she believes. I asked her if she was a Christian and she said that she thinks so because she was raised Lutheran. I ask her if she had ever prayed a prayer of repentance, and if she had ever surrendered her life to Jesus. She shook her head. I asked her if she would like to. She started to sob and whispered, “Yes.”  

My mind went into slow motion. I remembered telling someone the weekend before that I just want to see conversions. I remembered all the times when I felt the Holy Spirit with me as I spoke and felt sure someone was going to get saved, but no one did. I said to the Lord, “Is this really happening right now? Are you really giving me this gift?” And this woman the gift of salvation? My eyes filled with tears. And then time sped up. I looked around quickly for someone to come help me. I’m not qualified to do this. I don’t know what I am doing. I looked to my left, but Janine was busy and wouldn’t make eye contact with me. I looked to my right and Kim was already praying for someone. Okay. I guess this is up to me. So we began. She repeated after me the only prayer I could remember from my childhood. She sobbed some more. We finished. I told Jenna how much Jesus loves her. How he sees her. She wiped her eyes. I told her I am committed to pray for her. She wiped her eyes some more. And then we were done. She went and sat down.

Janine, who is in charge of the in-house Prison Fellowship program, asked me if everything was okay. Jenna’s sobs were loud. I told her that Jenna was just saved by Jesus. She smiled and went to pull Jenna aside to talk to her. She told me later that she scheduled a follow-up meeting. She told Jenna that she needs to always remember this day. It is a special day.

And I will always remember that day as well. I have stored it up as a treasure in my heart. The day that, despite the chaos, despite the lack of the Holy Spirit’s felt presence, despite my inadequacies, the Lord gave me a gift by giving Jenna the gift of salvation. He allowed me to be a part of what he is doing in this young woman’s life. He allowed me to witness the powerful transformation of a soul turning from the domain of darkness to the Kingdom of God’s dear Son--the very thing for which I have been longing for, O, so long.

I truly am committed to praying for Jenna. I know that she went back to her cell and Satan was right there lying and tempting her to overthink what had happened as he tried to gobble up the gospel seeds. But Jesus is more powerful than all the lies of the enemy. Will you please join me in praying for this brand new, baby sister in Christ? And for more conversions like this? O Lord, please give us more. Show us your power in overcoming the hold that sin and Satan have on people. Show us your glory! Make it so. Amen.

mom bio picDelaine Gamache has been a member of SGC for 18 years. She has been married to her Pastor husband for 27 years and was a stay at home mom for 18 years raising 5 kids. She just recently went back to work and enjoys serving students their lunch at the local high school. One of her favorite things to do is to bring the message of Jesus Christ to the women who are incarcerated in the nearby Women’s Prison.