Over the course of my life I have visited people incarcerated in jail. Every visit has been through a glass screen and over a phone. Today was different. I went into a maximum security prison in Mexico.
Yesterday after church a man approached one of our missionary contacts and asked if any of the team from Michigan would like to accompany him on Monday for his ministry to the prison. Since we're out of our comfort zone, why not. I agreed to go.
Today, Hector arrived about 1:30 and wanting to know if I was ready. I changed my clothes, and grabbed my Bible and off we went. I wasn't sure what I was going to be asked to do. But preaching was a high possibility.
The prison is about 5 miles south of the church we are working on. It doesn't have the barbed wire of Michigan prisons, but the guard at the gate meets you with an AR-15 or M-16. Getting in proved to be easy, and thanks be to God, so was getting out.
The journey in the prison was through the prison yard to a church or chapel building. When we arrived the prisoners were singing music. The sound was different from yesterday at church. The church mostly sings songs translated into spanish from Passion, or Hillsong, or Chris Tomlin. The prison church was singing stuff that had a south of the border sound.
I was asked to preach and I went through the story in Mark 2 of Jesus healing the paralytic man. My preaching went for about 15 minutes. I turned to the interpreter and said, I think that is it. He said, oh, we have about another hour. We turned to the text and began digging deeper. The interchange was lively and beautiful. The attentive stance of the men was a gift of grace. Mark described Jesus as being at home or in the house in Caparenum, he was "in the house" within the prison.
After the sermon I prayed for these men; a great priviledge. They had a benediction and then greetings. Most came up and shook my hand and gave me a big hug. I have no thought that I added much to the Biblical understanding of the men within the prison. They have a small seminary and know their Bible's well. I have a sense that Jesus welcomed me in that place, that I stood in the house of God, a preacher, a confessor, a vessel, and mostly a recepient of God's grace.
As I walked out Hector passed me an item that the prisoners had given him, a small pepper mill. Inscribed on it was San Lucas (Gospel of Luke) 1.37 - "For nothing is impossible with God."
Indeed. Thanks be to God.