Rez member Mark Macy has been visiting inmates in jails and prisons across Illinois for years. Here’s one story of how God has changed his life through this ministry. Learn how men can get involved in visiting inmates below.
I found myself at a loss for words when Carlos, the young man in the orange jumpsuit, sat down across the glass from me.
“What do you want me to tell him, Lord?” I asked.
I had never seen him before. I scheduled this meeting at the request of an acquaintance of a friend of a friend, and yet somehow I knew that the Lord had brought me here.
“Hi Carlos. My name is Mark. A friend of yours thought you might like a visit. If it’s all right with you, I’d like to pray for you and talk a little bit about God. If at any time you don’t want to stay, you can just go.” He gave a tiny nod.
Pulling out my paper and pen, I sketched out diagrams, showing how God loved him and desired a relationship with him, but how his sin creates a chasm between God and him. Finally, I held the last diagram up to the glass, showing how the cross of Christ bridges the gap of sin. I explained that only the blood of Christ could pay the penalty for his sin. He didn’t say much, but I could tell he was listening.
I continued, explaining repentance, how he could be reconciled with God, and how Christ’s blood could remove all of his sin, making him pure and sinless before God. While I talked, I noticed a change in his countenance. Tears began to well in his eyes.
In our 30 short minutes together, I painted a picture of our loving and merciful God, likening God’s love for him to Carlos’ love for his own baby daughter. In our last minutes together, I led him in a prayer of confession and repentance. As we finished the prayer, the guard abruptly called him back to his cell. Flustered, I mouthed, “I’ll send you a Bible!” hoping he might comprehend through the soundproof glass.
In the week that passed, I wondered where Carlos’ heart would be. Would he agree to see me again? Had he shrugged off the moment of conviction he felt last week? To my delight, on my next visit he bounded into the room with a smile on his face and a Bible in his hand.
In the coming weeks, the Lord surprised me again and again by the work he was doing in Carlos’ heart.
“I have three other guys who want to meet with you,” he said.
“Really?” I asked “How?”
“I’ve been reading my Bible every night, like you told me,” he explained. “These guys started listening, so now we all read it together.”
How could someone who has been a believer for less than two weeks start a Bible study inside the jail? Only God!
“My brother offered to post my bail,” Carlos grinned, “but I told him not to because I thought God wanted me here to keep meeting with you.” My mouth fell open as I sat in stunned silence.
Prison ministry can entail many setbacks and disappointments, as the destructive nature of fatherlessness, addiction, and gangs have great power over many. But seeing God work so clearly in the life of Carlos reminds me that “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 Jn 4:4). Watching lives transformed reminds me of the faithfulness of God our Father. Witnessing men come to love opening God’s Word reminds me that God our Father is still drawing men from all backgrounds to follow him. Seeing men facing huge uncertainty find peace, and even joy, reminds me that the fruits of the Spirit will grow in every heart that has been renewed by God.
Is it any wonder that I leave these 30-minute appointments blessed even more than the inmate I came to encourage? These jail visits have become an irreplaceable source of hope, refreshment, and inspiration in my own Christian walk. Visiting prisoners becomes not an act of sacrificial obedience (Matt 25:36, Heb 13:3), but a front row seat to God pouring out his love and mercy on ALL men, regardless of their background.
Men, if you are interested in learning more about sharing Christ’s love by reading Scripture and praying for an inmate at DuPage County Jail, contact Mark Macy at firstname.lastname@example.org or (630) 747 0860.