“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” John 1:18
What more intimate place could there be than the bosom? It is the place where the infant is comforted and nourished. It is the place where the lover will rest his head to be near the beloved’s heart. It is not a place appropriate for the casual acquaintance. Only those truly known and dearly loved are welcome in the bosom.
The Son was in the bosom of the Father, receiving His love, knowing His heart and His secret counsels. There was such an intimate communion and knowing, that He could declare the Father and make Him known to those who had never seen Him. In the bosom of the Father, for those who will venture near enough to recline upon His holy, heavenly bosom, there is a spiritual seeing and knowing that all our study of theology and listening to sermons will never produce. And from that place of learning Him, we too are made able to declare Him.
For 2 years I’ve been part of my church’s prison ministry to Angola, the state’s maximum security prison. One of the high points of the month for me is the evening we spend at Angola having a church service with them. However, one of the difficulties has been that there is not much time for personal interaction with the inmates, and even what little time there is, as a woman I have to be very careful with how I interact with these men. I have had a desire to have access to LCIW (Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women) but there were no available time slots for a new ministry.
But in May I learned about a discipleship program that uses volunteers. I immediately began making calls. I found out what training was required and attended the course, only to be told that they didn’t have many evening spots available and those usually filled up quickly. After the training I contacted the volunteer coordinator, who again told me there wasn’t a spot available for me. However, she did need someone who could be available to substitute if one of the regular volunteers was unavailable, so I gladly agreed to do this. And I waited……….
Then, a few weeks ago I got the phone call. I was needed to fill in. I was nervous, anxious, unsure of what the prison would be like or what the inmates would be like. My stomach was in a knot as I walked through the prison to the chapel with the other volunteers. I walked into the main meeting room to await the arrival of the inmates. They slowly trickled in by two’s and three’s and when they saw me, a new face they didn’t recognize, they came over to meet me and hug me. Within ten minutes I felt like I was at home.
I led a discussion group with about 8 of the ladies and immediately decided that I liked them very much. My only sorrow that whole evening was knowing that it was just a one time thing. They asked me to come back next week, but I felt sure that was impossible……until I got the email asking me to substitute again the following week. And the second week was better than the first! Four weeks have passed now since that first visit and I am a regular now. Even when I’m not needed to lead the group, the team leader has given her approval for me to come and be there. And somehow, just seeing my face there let’s these women know that I genuinely care about them.
It is a blessing to be part of what God is doing at LCIW.
My church has a time of prayer before the Sunday morning service. I have my own little spot where I go to pray. I like to sit on the floor between two pews so I am hidden away. Earlier this year during one of these morning prayer sessions, a lady I hadn’t seen before came into the prayer service and came and sat down on the floor right next to me. She looked at me and smiled with a big smile. I was a bit shocked because nobody had ever come and sat down on the floor with me. I didn’t quite know what to say. She broke the silence with a question – “God doesn’t like it when we sin, does He?” In the brief interaction that followed I could tell that she had some level of mental disability. For whatever reason, she latched onto me. Ever since then she would walk to church in the morning from the nearby apartments and then ask me to bring her home after church. She didn’t always act “appropriately” in our Sunday School and church service. Sometimes she said Amen in the wrong place, or ate way too many donuts in the church kitchen before Sunday School. Things like that. She’s just a little bit different from the rest of us.
Last Sunday during the altar time after the service was over, I could hear her voice. It kept getting louder, until you could surely hear it throughout the whole sanctuary. Over and over she kept saying “Hallelujah!” with deep and loud emotion. It wasn’t proper in our reserved little church. I heard her one last time exclaiming “let everything that has breath praise the Lord” and then she collapsed on the floor in tears.
She was the most simple minded among us that morning, and I am convinced the most pleasing to God.