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Getting Involved with Psalm 23rd Prison Ministry

Posted by on Tuesday, November 9, 2010 in Nashville, Service.

A divine encounter happened 2 months ago.  I visited Belmont Church with my friend Martha for a Saturday night church service.  Afterwards, a few members of the church greeted us.  One of the elder men who greeted us started telling us his experience with the Nashville Psalm 23rd prison ministry (several branches – women’s, men’s, death row’s).

Then, a month ago, I decided I really wanted to get involved with the Psalm 23rd ministry so I contacted Ben Houston, who is the lead coordinator of the ministry.  After talking with him for about a month, I went on my first prison visit yesterday at the Riverbend Men’s Maximum Security prison.

I can honestly say it was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life.  I realized that my stereotype of offenders was completely arrogant and haughty.  Prior to meeting the gentlemen of “Unit Six” who chose to come to our gathering at the prison, I had feelings of anxiety and a bit of fear, not knowing what exactly to expect.

After they came, I was able to see that these men were human beings, just like me.  Most of them started off in really bad environments that lead to a life of crime.  Some of them had many family members who were also in prison.  My heart started to contemplate the privilege that I had experienced while growing up.  Sure – my family was a bit poor when I was in elementary school, but my parents always emphasized education and hard work.  Some of these men never had anyone tell them that they’re worth anything or that they had a bright future.

While we were there, we also sang Christian praise songs.  This portion also surprised me as some of the inmates pulled out their guitars to play and sing!  I did not know that you could have musical instruments in prison (another example of my ignorance).  As these men started singing of God’s love and redemption, I started to cry.  These people don’t have much, but they were so thankful for what they did have.

After the sermon, we concluded by taking everyone’s prayer requests.  It was at this point, I felt that all of us are vulnerable to doing bad things, committing criminal acts.  We are all human.  Even though they are society’s pariahs, they still had needs.  Their families had needs.  They had wives, children, parents…  Some needed prayers for healing, some for their family’s protection, and some were just prayers of thanksgiving for having family members who are patiently putting up with them, waiting for them to be put on parole.

After my visit, I reflected on what horrible misconceptions I had about people in prison.  I began to realize how blessed I was to have had a supportive family and friends who helped me to get to where I am today.

Crime isn’t always black and white.  Sometimes, you’re raised in the perfect neighborhood and still go awry.  Sometimes, nobody ever gave you a chance to succeed and that’s the life you’ve always known.  Either way, I think this is the reason everyone should get involved in service/ministry to diverse populations.  It helps to break stereotypes and stir up change.  Because of this experience, I know that whatever occupation I end up with, I want to serve in prison ministry.  I want to be able to speak encouragement for the people who are seeking another chance, who want to do better than they have previously done.

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