Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Prison Ministries

                Last night I semi-reluctantly attended our monthly Ultreya meeting.  All people who attend a Cursillo are invited to come worship, learn, and fellowship.  Each month the leader team brings a new topic of interest to the rest of us.  Throughout the year, we always have a family picnic in August and a Christmas party in December.  Another regularly schedule activity is to hear people talk about the prison ministry.  I have heard this theme a few times.  To be honest, I get bored with this issue, but since my husband in now on the team, I went mainly to support him.  I left the meeting contemplating my lack of ministry in my journey to holiness.
                The Bible passage read came from Matthew 25:31-46.  Jesus talks about how people will be divided into two groups to be judged, goats and sheep.  Now, I love goats and sheep, but I really don’t want to be a goat.  The sheep get to go to heaven because “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” verse 35-36.  The goats did none of this; thus, there is no place in heaven for them.
                I have heard and read this reading many times in my life.  I always feel guilty.  Really, I don’t do much of this.  I give food when I remember and I do give baby clothes and the afghans I make for the babies of unwed mothers.  That is the extent of what I do in these specific areas.  None of it is outside my comfort zone.  Granted, I do a lot of things for my church and children, but one of the guys that spoke last night made a good point.  Giving all the bushel baskets of money to the marginalized will do nothing to help their hearts.  They need us to show up whether it is in the prison, nursing home, homeless shelter, or other areas they frequent. 
                I have a major hang up, okay hang ups.  The independent, judgmental, red neck in me has a lot of issues with homeless people and prisoners.  I worked three jobs to get through college with no help from my parents or anyone else.  I make sure I don’t overspend by buying a house I can’t afford or any of those big priced toys that would be a lot of fun; boats, jet skis, snowmobiles.  I also abide by the laws of our community.  This way of life is not difficult.  If I can do, so can everyone else.
Yet, the other part of me knows that I was raised with a strong moral code and work ethic that others aren’t blessed to be guided in by mentors.  They suffer circumstances in their lives that I can only imagine.  They lack the skills to pull themselves out of the eternal cycle of poverty.  Others are placed in positions with no support that they just can’t get out of without drastic measures because they don’t have the tools to do anything else.  Other people simply just make one bad mistake that sends them to jail.  Another guy stood up and talked about this.  He gave examples of one good man drinking and driving killing someone with his car.  Another person was abandoned by his family at age 14 leading to issues that sent him to prison.  These people still have good in their heart.  Besides, who am I to judge them? 
As an early teen, my youth group went to the local nursing home to visit the marginalized.  I hated these trips.  The smell, drool, vacant eyes all grossed me out.  One mentally disabled woman would grab us, scaring me.  Only one of the patients did I like to visit, an older gentle who loved history.  I enjoyed talking with him.  When I step into an old folk’s home now, I still feel all those old feelings come back to me and just want to run back out the door.
I am left wondering what is a person like me supposed to do about ministries in this area.  At the moment I am a goat, a very busy goat.  My life is very full with my volunteer work, kids, house, and projects.  Someday I may join the prison ministries.  Now, I need to be the one to stay home with the kids while my husband performs this duty.  The prison ministers talked about needing prayer and letters.  I can do this.  Also, I know I could easily fix a dinner at our church when we host Family Promise there.  What about you?  Do you minister to the less fortunate?  I would love to hear what you do for Jesus.
Blessings to you all.

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