Not long ago, while at Wingmen, a men’s ministry started by former Dallas Cowboy Chad Hennings, one of the men stood up and invited everyone to join him at Bill Glass’ ‘Weekend of Champions,’ a ministry in which people share the Gospel with men and women behind prison walls. He passed out postcard size cards with all the particulars about the event.
I took one, thinking that I really should go. I have “fallen into” some prison ministry due to a friend being incarcerated a few years ago. As if that weren’t enough, several ministries with which I work are involved with prisoners as well. For some reason, my path keeps crossing with prison ministry. From that standpoint, it seemed to “make sense” that I go, but I have never really shared the Gospel as they would be doing. Instead, I liked to follow St. Francis’ direction; “Preach the Gospel always, and when necessary, use words.” That seemed to be a convenient way to avoid direct confrontation.
So I took the card and thought, “Yes! I should go! (“No! I shouldn’t!)” I put the card on my desk in my home office. “I’ll sign up soon! (No, I won’t!)”
Over the next couple of weeks, that card had a strange way of turning up. I’d walk into my office, and it would be on the floor. “The ceiling fan must have blown it off my desk,” I thought. “Strange nothing else got blown off. Oh, the deadline for signing up is coming soon. I guess I better get signed up. (Wait for the deadline to pass. That’s an easy out).”
As I was paying bills, the card would show up between the electric bill and the water bill. “How did this get here? Oh, look how close the deadline is! I’ll sign up after I pay the bills. (Place the card where you won’t see it when you are done paying the bills so you’ll ‘forget.’)”
The next time the card showed up, I thought, “Okay. I’ll go if someone else from my Wingmen Element group (our small group within the larger Wingmen ministry) goes. (No one else will go. That’s an easy out too…and the sign up deadline is only days away. Maybe they won’t see the email in time).” So I sent the email to my group. Almost immediately Ron replied, “I’m going.”
“Okay then! That solves it! I’ll sign up (soon).”
A couple of days later I walked into my office and looked at the card. “Oh, shoot! The sign up deadline was yesterday. I missed it. Oh, well. Maybe next time (YES!)”
I turned on my computer and checked my email. “The deadline for the Bill Glass Weekend of Champions has been extended!”
“No! (Ignore it. It’ll go away)”
That Friday we had a Wingmen Element meeting. (Note to self: avoid the topic of prison ministry, especially with Ron). At the meeting, the conversation turned to how the Holy Spirit will sometimes push us to do things we really don’t want to do. I dropped my head, and Ron looked at me, “What?” he asked.
I said I was doing everything I possibly could to not go to the prison ministry, but that the Holy Spirit was telling me I was supposed to go. “I guess I better sign up.”
Fast forward to this past weekend. I had gone to the Thursday night training and met up with several other Wingmen who were going to this huge event. The plan was that John and I, both freshmen to the Bill Glass ministry, would stay with Ron. We would watch, learn and, if we felt uncomfortable, could stay completely quiet.
Friday morning while waiting to enter the John R. Lindsey State Jail in Jacksboro and talking to some of my fellow Wingmen, there was a change of plans. It was decided that I would go with Steve, another ministry veteran and John would go with Ron. Already I felt a bit uncomfortable. I really didn’t know Steve that well. What if he suddenly turned to me while we were in a group and asked me to share the Gospel!?
The ministry draws the inmates together by having some great speakers and entertainers, and their strategy certainly worked in Jacksboro. Shortly after arriving, we were in a gym surrounded by a sea of orange jackets. At the conclusion of the talk by the last speaker of the morning, who built to a crescendo in telling how finding Christ had completely changed his life, he said there were volunteers in the audience who would share how they, too could find the kind of life changes that come with living in Christ. Steve and I soon had about a half dozen men standing around us.
A short time after Steve started sharing the Gospel with these men, I noticed a large African American man standing next to me looking for a path out of the group. The men and the chairs seemed to be blocking his way, but he soon moved a few chairs and walked out of the circle. I assumed he would walk off and talk to a friend, but instead he took only a few steps out of the group and sat down by himself. After a minute, I went over and sat down next to him. “Are you okay?” I asked.
He turned to me with tears running down his cheeks, “I have done such bad things to my girlfriend. I even wished death on her. God could have turned that wish around to me, but he didn’t. Why am I feeling like this? Why am I feeling like this?”
(“Oh no, what did I get myself into? Say you don’t know and walk away!”) Suddenly I became very calm (“…don’t worry about how or what to speak. For you will be given what to say at that hour.” -Matthew 10:19 “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” -2 Timothy 1:7). I put my hand on his shoulder and we started talking. I know the words weren’t my own, but from the Holy Spirit. At one point he turned to me and said, “I never heard those words from anyone before.”
As we continued our talk, I told him that I had been trying not to come to this event but was led there by the Holy Spirit. I was trying to be faithful and trusting, even though it was hard. At the end of our talk, he looked into my wet eyes with his wet eyes and said, “I am why you came.”
Was I really there for him, or was he there for me? I’m not sure. Probably both. I just know I’m glad I stopped saying no before the Holy Spirit had to hit me with a two by four! Next time I’m told to do something, I’ll not play the disobedient child for so long!