Christmas Eve Behind Bars: Follow Up

I want to thank you for praying for Angie and me on Christmas Eve as we ministered in Hutchinson Correctional Facility (HCF). Angie and I felt an army of prayers backing us. Here is what God did that night.

The days leading up to Christmas Eve were heavy as I experienced intense spiritual warfare. I woke up on Christmas Eve day and felt the attack in intense ways. I wasn’t sure how I was going to minister that night, but right before we headed to HCF, I went on a quick walk and prayed. I went to see my good friends Andy and Lisa Entz, they both felt like the accuser was attacking me—so they prayed for me and that night’s service. They prayed for victory and within 30 minutes there was a feeling of freedom! Praise the Lord.

We arrived at HCF early so that we could pray and dedicate the night to the Lord. The leaders of the church behind bars (the Protestant Call-Out), are mostly TUMI students, and they were able to come early and help us set up. We had a powerful prayer time with these leaders and felt fully prepared. There was a spirited atmosphere as the room filled with hugs, greetings of “Merry Christmas,” and sounds of Handel’s Messiah playing overhead. It was definitely surreal to hear Messiah being played inside the prison.

Angie opened with three songs. During the third song “Here I am to Worship,” the men just sang out with their hands raised in true worship. There was something powerful during the tag, “I'll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon the cross.” These guys were all in this place because of some deep sin, yet they sang of how the Lord has taken their place. What a joy to witness.

Following worship we did the Advent readings. In the prison we could not light candles, so instead we prepared overhead slides to represent the color of each candle. Two by two the guys would come up and explain the different candle, read a Scripture, and then pray. Hearing these TUMI students read the Scriptures was powerful. The words of the Scriptures were alive and going forth in the prison. The men were grasping and taking to heart the promises and prophecies of Isaiah.

Following the advent readings I gave the message from Ephesians 3:19. the summary of the message was; because Christ overcame the obstacles of becoming a human, He can overcome any obstacle that you find yourself in. The reason Christ did all of this was for love’s sake, and to fully understand this we need to encounter the love of God.

I closed with the story of Moses and two other friends I know that found themselves in serious trouble, and yet the Lord encountered them with His love and grace and turned their lives around and is now using them in dramatic ways.  After each story the guys would erupt with applause for what God had done. Hope filled the room.

Following the message, I closed with a time of prayer. I suggested the guys close their eyes and I led them through a series of prayers, inviting the Lord’s presence to be felt and His love to come near. I could tell the Lord was breaking in as several of the guys cried, it was tangible that the Lord was meeting them.

As I dismissed the men, about 20 of them flocked to the front to greet us. They thanked us for coming and wished us a Merry Christmas. But I was especially touched by a few testimonies, several of the guys shared with me how they felt the Lord’s presence and the love of God. One of the guys shared, “I am a former Satanist and I haven’t cried like this in a long time.” What an amazing memory I will carry, Christmas Eve with 120 inmates and a former Satanist telling me he cried and experienced the love of God in a new way.

Thanks again for standing with Angie and I in prayer.