My First Day “Behind Bars”

This past Saturday I was privileged to be on the New Life Corrections Ministry team that visited the Stateville NRC near Joliet, IL.

Capture

Stateville Northern Reception and Classification center is the largest intake facility within the Illinois Department of Corrections. Nearly 2,000 male inmates cycle in and out of the facility each month. In addition to handling intake, NRC manages court and medical writ inmates and contains a Minimum Security Unit. (see http://www.thejha.org/NRC for more information)

  • As part-time jail & prison chaplains (& chaplains in training) our mission was “simple”:
  • Go cell to cell in groups of 2 or 3 and distribute Bibles, study materials, Christian periodicals (i.e. Daily Bread), literature on the aftercare programs that Wayside Cross Ministries provides, as well a some good Christon fiction.
  • Answer any spiritual questions the inmate might have.
  • Pray with and for the inmate (call them by name)

I have spoken with quite a few people about their experiences as full-time and part-time chaplains to the incarcerated, but nothing prepared me for what I was about to experience. As I approached the prison, I kept waiting for the butterflies to take up residence in my stomach. But instead, God gave me an incredible sense of peace and hope.

A few highlights from the day

  • I ran out of Bibles (except for one small New Testament – in Spanish)
  • My supply of devotionals and other material was severely depleted as well.
  • I was able to speak directly to David & Daniel who had requested specific materials from “the chaplain” and learn about their spiritual lives as well as their families at home.
  • When a man asked for prayer, their first concern was ALWAYS that their family at home be taken care of. Not one of them asked me to pray for them to be released from their current “home”.
  • When I needed to answer a specific question, miraculously God provided the answer directly from His word.
  • I got to answer the question, “Where is Heaven?”
  • I talked to many of them about how important it is for the DAD to be the spiritual head of his household in order to break the cycle of repeated sin and incarceration within their families. and community.
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TWO CELL BLOCKS AT THE STATEVILLE NRC

I look forward to my next trip “Behind Bars” and ask for your prayers in advance that God will go before me and prepare the hearts of those that he wants me to speak to.

If you have any devotionals or other study materials that you would like to share with our brothers and sisters who live behind tall walls & razor wire, I would love to have them for my next visit.

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