The jail where I volunteer as a chaplain is on a multi-year remodeling project for their facilities. I’d been told that someday I may go up to the unit and find that no one is there.
Today was that day.
I also knew that it was coming because past few weeks I’d noticed that only about half of the cells in the unit were populated. The head chaplain will find out what unit the guys have been transferred to and I will start serving the men in that unit as best I can.
Transitions like this are a proper time to reflect on the joys and sorrows of standing with those at the margins of society:
- I’ve come alongside those who were grieving for a loved one, but because they are in jail, they cannot attend the funeral or be around family to be comforted. (Don King and the Holy Spirit)
- I’ve talked and prayed with men who were facing the death penalty. (Facing the Death Penalty)
- I’ve had my heart broken as men I have known have died. (Inmates Die)
- I’ve shared hope with men who thought they were beyond God’s reach. (Afraid of Your Child)
- I’ve shown men how to open a Bible, a book that they had never touched before. (An Ineffective Start)
- Sometimes, probably more often than I realize, I have been the one who received ministry. (Finding Blessing Hidden in the Waiting)
“Compassion isn’t just about feeling the pain of others; it’s about bringing them in toward yourself. If we love what God loves, then, in compassion, margins get erased. ‘Be compassionate as God is compassionate,’ means the dismantling of barriers that exclude.”
― Gregory J. Boyle, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion
I look forward to what will emerge as I start serving in a different unit of the jail as I see this scripture unfold in the lives of the men:
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation—“
Colossians 1:21-22 (NIV)