It was another very special weekend of prison ministry in the Columbia, SC area. On Saturday evening, Ted and Joyce Smith and I were at the Manning Correctional facility where we enjoyed a lively service. Unusual for me, I did not speak at this service but rather provided special music as did Joyce. I enjoyed relaxing and hearing the wonderful testimonies of two older team members, who each told of wasted lives in the past that were transformed by Christ. The speaker shared a strongly appropriate message from Acts 9, “Kicking against the goads.” Five men indicated trusting Christ that night. It all ministered to me and prepared me for our Sunday morning services, where Joyce was to provide music and I would share the Word.
We were at the Wateree River Correctional facility, about 35 miles outside of Columbia. We had to leave our hotel at 5:30 AM to arrive at security and then lead services at 7:00 and 8:00. This is the prison where Chaplain Bob Taylor serves, the 85 year old retired Air Force chaplain who knew my family while we were all stationed in Chateauroux, France in the early 1960’s. He helped my parents and others form the First Baptist Church of Chateauroux in 1960, where I trusted Christ as Savior at age 7 in 1961. Chaplain Taylor and I met unexpectedly at the prison in 2012, so this man and this place are very dear to me. The 7:00 service was jam packed. The prison choir sang rousing numbers, after which Joyce touched everyone present with “Written In Red.” I was already fighting back the tears of a full heart by the time I stood to speak. My time was limited, but to the surprise of my friends and myself, I completed my message in the 25 minutes remaining! We saw 12 men indicate a decision for Christ!
The 2nd service had about 20-25 young men from age 18 to their early 20’s who were a part of the SHOCK program. They are first time offenders who are offered the opportunity to complete a very demanding and rigid 90-day boot camp style sentence. If successful, and if keeping their record clear for a year after being released, their offences are erased and they begin clean. These young men sat captivated by my every word and we saw 14 of them indicate their trust in Christ! What a privilege to be included in God’s dealings on this earth!
Boxes of books have begun to arrive at my office for our Sept. 14 book signing fellowship at Arlington Church. Hope you can make it. You should find details on this website. I really believe this book can help show folks how life can “Get even better!”