Monday, July 28, 2008

Jacksboro Jail Visit

I just got an email reminding me to post about my visit to the jail in Jacksboro, TN. In the shock of yesterday's church shooting it slipped my mind. Please forgive me for the omission. Here's the post you were promised!

The visit went well but was not what I expected. In the phone call asking me to come I was told that we would have a devotion and talk with the inmates for awhile. That sounded easy enough. Allie, my eldest daughter was intrigued and decided to accompany us on the visit. (Her job as our Summer Youth Coordinator has her working with our juvenile offenders. The jail visit was a good fit with her activities.)

On the way, we stopped to meet a gentleman with Jacksboro United Methodist Church. He has a heart for jail ministry. Allie and I welcomed him.

At the jail we met three other ladies. Two were from First Baptist in LaFollette, the other was from First Baptist Church in Jacksboro, TN. They are all with the Celebrate Recovery Program at First Baptist here in Jacksboro. (Celebrate Recovery is a popular Christian 12 Step program for people in several areas of recovery. )

It was there at the jail that we found out we would only be working with the women inmates. This made our sidekick understandably uneasy. Fortunately, he got to meet one of the male session leaders so it all worked out.

The visit went so well that Allie wants to go back as soon as she can!

What we didn't know going in is that we didn't just talk with the inmates. We had a church service. It was optional for them to come. Those who did seemed to enjoy it.

Without music, the hymns we sang were enthusiastic even if they were off pitch. When a tiny little oriental lady led the devotion from Stepping Out of Denial and Into God's Grace (one of the Celebrate Recovery program books) all eyes were attentive. A well-liked older lady led the program. Some people brought Bibles that appeared to be worn. If it wasn't for the orange (regular security) or red (maximum security) jumpsuits you could close your eyes and pretend you were at a ladies meeting in any country chapel.

The effect was a bit surreal.

But I can honestly say that when I spoke I could not have asked for a more attentive group.

I was able to tell them some things from the victim's side that left most of the women in tears. One woman visibly broke down. Others, accustomed to abuse in their own lives, nodded their heads as I spoke. All seemed to be moved.

It was tough speaking to them. I wanted to tell the women that in the end everything would be okay but that wasn't true and I wasn't going to lie. Some of them have committed major offenses. Some things are never all right. But, I could reassure them that God's love and His redemption is still possible. That's a message all of us need to hear from time to time.

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