Swastika tattoos, life sentences, depression, addiction, brokenness, tears, repentance, forgiveness, new life…

In prison ministry we see this play out…questions, doubts, and more about a genuine change in an offender’s life.  We witness the brokenness over their situation, over leaving their families behind, over their victims, over their sin.  We see them struggle with doubt, with fear over falling, with being loved, with being accepted.  But no matter the questions, the lack of courage, the unbelief…the answer is the same.  The hope of the Gospel.  The answer is Jesus.

And that’s what we bring them… in every service, every event, the name of Jesus is high and lifted up, proclaimed and exalted, offered…and sometimes received.

“Can God forgive this?”  This was a question posed by a young man after a service at Maryville Correctional Center.  He sat through the 2 hours of praise and worship, preaching, and testimony of a life changed in prison and still…he didn’t come forward to receive Christ at the invitation.  What was holding him back?  Doubt and fear that God would not accept or love or forgive a man like him.  The Holy Spirit worked that day and many came to receive the free gift of salvation…but this man, unaware that the Holy Spirit was drawing him to repentance waited until most everyone had left and we were packing up our equipment.  “Can God forgive this?”  These were the words uttered from Adam, a man with swastika tattoos and more on his neck, arms, and who knows where else.  James told Adam about Jesus, His sacrifice for ALL sins and led Adam to faith in Christ.  He looked like a thousand pounds had been lifted off his shoulders and with tears in his eyes and his hands held out in front of him looked upward with genuine thankfulness.  It was a sight to behold and one I will not forget.  True repentance, followed with real freedom, and a praise given to our King for His sweet hope, for salvation.

We have encountered those who believe that most of what we do can only result in “jailhouse religion”.  And if it was indeed “we” who did anything it would result in that.  But God!  But God does the work, in us, through us, and in the lives of these men that we have the privilege to share Him with.  Can God forgive this?  Well…He forgave you didn’t he?  You are no better, I am no better, God is not a respecter of persons.  Thank goodness for that.

Sing for the King,


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