“Would you like to hold a service for the prison church?”
This was one of those moments when you wonder…when you hope…that something is lost in translation.
“I’m sorry. In English the word prison means jail, a place where criminals go. There’s some mistake.”
The translator consults Jesús and continues, “No mistake. He leads a church inside the prison. They have forty believers and meet on Saturday.”
Now before you get distracted when you see the name Jesús – he’s a church planter in Mexico, not Nazareth. I’ve never laid claim to maturity so I’ll admit I giggle when I get an email telling me that Jesús’ phone is out of minutes so no one has been able to talk to him for a few days. Still, we trusted that we’d be all right as long as Jesús was with us, so we agreed.
I felt a little claustrophobic. Back home my husband is what we call “a big ol’ boy”. In Guerrero he’s known in the basketball community as ‘El Toro’, but even he’d have trouble getting out of that crowded room should something go down.
But when the music began, my worries vanished. I understand it’s easy to make church services when you are in prison, there’s not a lot on your schedule, but the men who had decided to align themselves with the Christians had taken a risk. They had turned their backs on gangs that expect loyalty-even from prison. While we did draw some curious first-timers, it was obvious that there was a strong core of believers. Even without a song book they knew all the songs and sang with gusto, especially when singing about the liberty and freedom found in Christ.
No one wants to be in jail, but for some of these men, this is the rest of their life. They can’t postpone living for Christ until they are released. They will spend more of their adult years behind bars than they will free and living long enough to serve their sentence isn’t a guarantee, either. Just last December six men were hanged to death by the mafia in this very courtyard. How the guards didn’t notice…well, I don’t want to think about it.
What I do want to think about is how I always imagine that easier circumstances are just around the corner. When the kids are bigger… When we have more time… More money… But what if this is as good as it’s going to get? What if I won’t ever have the opportunities that I have right now?
We all have limits that we live with. Some of us are limited by our health and finances. Some are limited by our family obligations. God knows that. He knows these prisoners are limited by their location, and He has a plan for them. He knows what duties you can’t ignore. His will fits perfectly with your circumstances. If something’s unbearable ask Him to change it, but then remember there are people behind bars who have found a way to praise Him.