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.