The Canvas Men’s Ministry small group Fight Club, after much trying, was blessed with the opportunity to get inside the jail in Loudon County on Tuesday night, the 11th of March. Brad McClain, Steven Buffalo and myself were the first of what I pray will be many men and women from Canvas to be able to reach out to those considered by most to be unreachable and unworthy. I know because I felt this way for most of my life and I was wrong.
When we decided to look into the jail ministry, we first turned to Focus Ministries group in Knoxville. These people are a group of volunteers who set up groups inside as well as outside the walls of jails all over the state. We were not only welcomed to take part in some training, but as you may remember from my last blog attempt, we were allowed to join in a service at the God Pod at the Maloneyville Road facility in Knox County. That night was incredible, all of us who attended were truly blessed and changed profoundly.
After learning that Loudon County does not use the resources of this group, we decided to go to work and try to get involved with the Chaplains ministry at the jail there. Our first attempts were not very successful, but we kept trying. Last December we were able to make contact with the Chaplain, Pastor David Choate, and he agreed to come to a meeting and give us an overview of the situation there. To say that his ministry there is challenging would be a huge understatement.
The jail is terribly overcrowded, usable space is almost non-existent, and a hugely overworked staff left us with few options. We decided to try to work with some of the families, and provide coffee, hot chocolate and prayers etc. as they visited relatives inside for as many years as it would take to get inside. Our original timetable was five to ten years. Well, as usual, God has a far different timetable than we do.
Around the first of March I received a call from the Chaplain, he had an opening for three short services on Tuesday March the 11th and would we consider working them. I answered yes! Then I took it to the Fight Club men who embraced the idea without discussion. I never considered speaking inside the jail, I felt very under qualified. I was so excited to just be able to get this thing going by leading it, I was broadsided to find that I was one going inside.
The timing left the three is us as the first to go inside. We had decided that since all but Brad lacked any serious pastoral training, not to mention the speaking ability of Pastor Nick, our twenty-minute blocks would be better served to give testimonies, not sermons. I will not take the considerable time here to be specific as to the content, but our words, led by the Holy Spirit had an effect. We were welcomed and our testimonies were well received. The inmates all responded to us and we were blessed to see the intention in their eyes. Then it got better, after Steven gave his heartfelt testimony, a young man fell to his knees and accepted Christ! At this point the visit became a party, the Spirit was at work. A few minutes later another man re-dedicated his life to Christ! OK, by now, we were hooked.
Upon leaving the jail, and after much praise and thankful prayer in the parking lot, the Chaplain approached us and suggested we get ready for the next time! The next day I got a call inviting us to be an official part of the Chaplains service in Loudon County, yeah, we accepted!
First, let me thank all of the leadership and congregation for so many prayers leading up to this, our Canvas family was as involved as we were in this, most of all I give praises and all the glory to God.
This trimester, Fight Club has been reading “Wild Goose Chase” by Mark Batterson. I am paraphrasing here but his line that one of the most dangerous questions you can ask God is what do you want me to do with my life? The most dangerous thing we can do is not ask that question. We asked that question and He not only kicked open the doors to this jail, he fast tracked us into being a part of this ministry.
At fifty-six, I can say with complete confidence that everything that has happened in my life has been God leading me to this spot and time. I have learned to embrace God and let Him guide me through this great adventure. I would ask all of you to ask that dangerous question, and accept the answer, scary as it may seem. Love and prayers to all of my Canvas family, all the Glory to God.