Adams County Detention Facility loomed large and beige before me as the vehicle parked in the spiral shadows of barbed wire and high-tech cameras.
All of my belongings were "put away" for safe keeping. Including my identity (driver's license). I passed through the metal detector, me, myself, God, and a few other friendly folks. I nearly had a "Praise-ya-Jesus!" moment when my underwire failed to trigger the alarms.
God is in jail.
Psalm 42, the vocal ensemble my hubby and I joined, did three concerts in the lock-down. Two were for male prisoners escorted to a small empty room with the worlds most uncomfortable plastic chairs.
I was feeling anxious already, having passed through those mechanical doors that clank open, then slam shut with a bone-bumping echo. I couldn't escape if I wanted to! I felt trapped, and I knew I'd be going home in a few hours...
Those dudes were SCARY looking. An older with silver hair and faded tattoos sat cross-legged in the front row staring these "nice people who came to sing some songs" down. Deep lines carved canyons across his forehead. He sat front and center.
When the music began, his eyes shifted from upper left to upper right as if he dared himself not to look at us or get engaged with God as the gang-bangers and bank robbers around him raised their hands praising Jesus.
I stood in the very back of PS42, next to John, my back pressed against the cold concrete block wall. Do I make eye contact with these dudes or do I do the stage thing and let my eyes go blurry as if I'm gazing into another world? Never having done this before, I didn't want to send the wrong message or get myself mugged in the hall.
But God rained down on us all in spite of ourselves. I allowed myself to surrender to the music and share with these men, the gift of my voice along with the other PS42 members. By the end, there was not a dry eye in the room. Hardened criminals wept, prayed, sang and even danced a little, expressing love for Christ. Chaplin Micheal fired them up even more, calling them to account for their 7 week exercise in prayer and fasting. They eagerly recounted their time spent in Scripture over the week. When asked if they all belonged to Jesus, all men responded with resounding yesses.
I think I saw CHURCH for the first time.
Sure, there are probably a few posers hoping for early parole b/c of good behavior, but even they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Even the dude in the front row. He shook our hands and thanked us in a whisper on the way out of the room.
The hairs on our necks stood as if we were on top of a 14er in a lightning storm. Members of our group shot up spontaneous prayers for the next group. We were surrounded by the True Presence, the Almighty God (top that, Oprah and Eckhart!)
Men in white and yellow striped flooded into the room. They kept coming and coming...
Plastic chairs scraped the tile floor as they invaded each other's body space to make room.
Chaplin Micheal shoved his way through the men shouting, "This is incredible! The guys from the last group ran around the pod demanding everyone drop what they are doing and come to church! Incredible! They're all coming!" he bounced up and down on his toes, hands clasped to his chest.
If the previous service was CHURCH, the second one was CHURCH x CHURCH. Skeptical masks melted in mere moments. Young men with gang tattoos emblazoned on their chests, hugged their Bibles and cried out to Jesus b/c He is all they have. These men clapped, danced, hummed a bit and let loose. At the end, when the preacher gave the invite, no one moved. A young man, looked no older than 20, trembled. A huge bald guy next to him pulled him up and yelled out, "This brother wants to be baptized in the Holy Spirit! They pushed their way to the edge of the room. Young dude fell to his knees, begging Jesus to change his life.
Psalm 42 became Snot 42.
God wasn't done yet. And we had no clue.
The chaplains somehow achieved the unachievable by getting us access to one of the women's pods. They didn't come to us, we went to them. More big metal doors, guys with guns, and shouts of "Stay in Line".
It was a big room with cubicle-like cells all along the periferey. A dozen or so women in stripes sat at tables eating or in conversation. Another fifty or so sat stone-faced in those World's Most Uncomfortable Plastic Chairs. Arms crossed over their chests. Eyebrows furrowed. Mouths in deep frowns. "This is gonna suck." I thought as we shuffled around the little CD player (can't bring sound equipment in, could be used as a weapon. Death by Mic.)
Prison women scare prison men.
We were under a very tight time restriction to get in and get'er done. No time to pray, or prep. Our director hit 'play' and we started to sing. Halfway through, the women sat stone-faced. I imagined ice-vapors streaming from their nostrils. Okay, God, this really does suck!
Before our last song, Linda, one of our members stepped forward and preached. She begged the girls to open their hearts and just give Jesus a chance. We sang "I'm forgiven, because You were forsaken. I'm accepted. You were condemmned. I'm alive and well, Your spirit is within me, because You died and rose again."
We weren't two measures into the song before those faces melted like wax in front of a hot, hot fire. Heads swayed, hands raised, then when Chaplin Micheal gave the invite, 16 women dropped to their knees, crying out in loud voices to Jesus Christ!"
We didn't have time to be stunned b/c we were being ushered out (by people with guns).
In the hallway, Linda started singing "All for Jesus." I joined her. We got busted. No singing in prison hallways. Big Brother doesn't like it. So we whisper-sang and skipped. Others followed our guide, wiping tears off their cheeks.
17 people joined the family of Christ.
Someone doesn't like that. Please, please pray for Psalm 42. Satan tries to debilitate us in many ways so we can't or won't to and sing. 'Cuz there's revival behind bars!
Want more? Read Susie's blog!
That little stink pot beat me to posting!