The First Time I Went to Prison and Why I Know It Won't Be the Last

Updated: Jan 26, 2019

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

Unveiled faces. No make-up, no dressed-up hair or fancy fashions. Just a room full of women dressed in the matching white uniforms of female inmates—all sizes, ages, hair colors, and skin tones.

No hiding, just seeking.

They brought with them to this event nothing but the truest sense of a thirst for the Lord. Women at the well who had their pasts exposed, their transgressions bared before the world, and who now thirsted for the Living Water that Jesus offers.

There was laughter and tears. There was praise and fellowship. There was gratitude and service—ladies with nothing in common other than their current residence and a love for the Lord.

It was my first time to participate in prison ministry, and I tried to go with no expectations other than that the Lord would show up. And show up He did. Only He turned the tables on me and had these women ministering to the wounded and disillusioned places in my heart.

The moment I walked in my heart was humbled. I entered a room of women who had the appearance of being divested of their dignity. Dressed in white—often dingy--uniforms that fit no one, they had nothing to hide behind. Not their clothes or their make-up. Or their jobs or their families.

And they sat in their chairs worshipping as the unadorned daughters God created them to be. They were smiling, gracious, attentive, and inquisitive. They poured out love and affection on me as a first timer, expressing their gratitude for the entire team. They were beautiful.

I learned these ladies have hearts heavy for their families, who also are forced to live with the consequences of their actions. They worry for their kids and grieve for their parents who live under a weight of guilt for believing it was somehow their fault. They are burdened for others in their dorms who remain lost, or who are retuning to the free world without knowing of their Lord and Savior.

And they sing the happy birthday song to celebrate a sister in white on her special day, knowing that is all the birthday celebration she will have. And she smiles and enjoys the moment because for today it is enough.

They are thirsty sponges, soaking up every word that Chandra and the Called to Change team shared. Asking questions, digging deeper.

Yes, I know these ladies are walking through the consequences of their actions but walking with them for just two days put a magnifying lens on how much I take for granted in my life.

Choices… what I want to wear, what I want to eat, when I want to wake up, what I want to do with my time and who I choose to spend it with. Choices I make and that I allow to influence how happy I am on any given day. The same way these ladies allowed choices to bring them to a physical prison, I can allow choices to lock me in a spiritual one.

But in the middle of a prison chapel, God sent a gray-haired sister in white to speak truth and conviction into my heart. The ladies had been asked to ponder a question about going on an adventure with God, and she came to tell me that at first she didn’t like that question. But she didn’t stop thinking about it, and finally she realized this—her time in prison—was her adventure with God. She explained there are days now when she truly feels happy. She said she knew that God had to bring her to this place to show her she could know happiness—the kind born of joy in the Lord—no matter what her circumstances.

Without knowing she was doing it, she pointed out to me everything I only thought I understood when Paul wrote, “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the

Inside Mafmertine prison in Rome where Peter and possibly Paul were imprisoned

circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11-12)

In that moment I wondered if she might possibly be the more fortunate one.

When my turn came to share, I stood before them and looked out at a room full of beaming faces eager for greater understanding and wanting to go deeper in their relationship with God. When I was introduced, they cheered me on, encouraging me with sincere enthusiasm. I felt loved. I felt wanted. I felt a sense of fellowship—dare I say a family bond--with these ladies.

I had come with the goal of being used by God to bless them somehow, but they had been the even more willing ones to be used by God to bless me.

And as I looked out at this crowd of my new sisters all in white and heard them pouring out their welcome for me, I felt I had been given a little glimpse of what it will be like when I step through the gates of Heaven for the very first time.

I had joined the Called to Change team to help bring the Captivating program to these ladies, but I was the one who was captivated.

God is not constrained by cinder blocks, steel bars, and razor wire. He is very much present and moving in our prisons. And if He is moving there, then we know the enemy is moving there as well. This is a battlefield and there is much ground to be gained.

Or lost if we fail to act.

If you would like to learn more about the Called to Change Ministry or find out how you can help, visit

#Mamertineprison #Adventure #CalledtoChange #Captivating #PrisonMinistry #Prison #SistersinWhite #Choices #LoriAltebaumer

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