I was recently asked to share my experience serving with Empowering Life, why I care about prison ministry, and what this ministry of St Mark Lutheran of the Narrows and our Synod means to me. I of course wrote way more than they needed, and so I thought I’d share it here.
It’s difficult to explain what serving with Empowering Life means to me. I could share with you my own history of ministry in prisons and how that background helps me to feel at home behind fencing and locked doors. Or how in my own brokenness I feel a sense of fellowship with those incarcerated and as I share God’s grace, I experience the grace I need too. I could talk about the need of those who worship with us, the need to be seen and to be reminded of their worth. There is so much in my heart for this ministry.
As of this writing, I have only worshipped with Empowering Life at WCCW once. It was the second Sunday in December. As I left the prison that evening, on the phone with my spouse, I excitedly shared every minute of the short time we were there. From the confession to the prayers, my sermon to the songs, I had forgotten how much I missed ministry with those who are incarcerated.
I was grateful for the attentive listening and laughter during my message. My heart ached during the prayers of intercession as so many of the women gathered shared their hearts in just a few words. I couldn’t hold back my smile as everyone eagerly got up for Communion. As we finished our service, I finally looked up at the clock. We still had twenty minutes left.
Twenty minutes, and I wondered what we might do.
When the women around me began singing Christmas carols. Our musician for the evening, Jimothy, began playing along on the piano, calling out for the next song. We laughed, clapped, and sang together. We listened to solos from some of the most beautiful voices. And we continued in our worship until our time was done.
Experiencing God’s grace
Simply put, the ministry Empowering Life is doing is so important to me, because it’s obvious how important it is for the women at WCCW and together as the Body of Christ, we are called to share God’s love in places like this. I can’t wait to participate again.