Today I learned I am going to prison. I was kind of caught off guard because I have been immersed in work this week, and didn’t really expect it to happen so soon.
I got an email a few days ago from Bill, who is involved in prison ministry. He said he heard from the Deacon that I had finally been approved. The plan was for Bill to go with me. But you know God can’t stick to the plan.
Sometimes, I wish He would just humor me.
While I was still letting it sink in that I wasn’t going to get to go with Bill, the Deacon tells me matter-of-factly to meet him on the west side of town behind a bar-b-que joint at 7 a.m. this Sunday so we can go to Florida State Prison in Raiford.
He said it would take an hour to get there and we could stop for a biscuit.
Um, hopefully, I won’t be too nervous to keep my biscuit down. But, yeah, okay.
He said he wasn’t going to sugarcoat it. This isn’t jail. This is “the belly of the beast.”
Oh yeah, there is no way I am keeping that biscuit down.
The Deacon told me to wear a dress below my knee or some pants. No high heels and no open toe shoes. He didn’t want anyone to have impure thoughts.
Oh my. I really don’t either.
I asked him if it was safe. He said I was safer there than anywhere because of all the security. He said the only place there are no guards is where we have the service.
This did not ease my concern.
He said only the prisoners with the most privileges can go to service, and they don’t want to jeopardize their privileges. So no worries there, he encouraged.
Um, well actually, there is a tiny bit of worry.
Then, he asked me if I felt called to join a prison ministry for women that work at the P Farm. I told him that I had no idea. I just want to go to prison. I don’t have plans beyond prison. Who does?
He ministers to people on death row and said he would take me over there too.
I thought of the biscuit again.
Then he asked me if I had laid hands on anyone before. I told him I didn’t understand what he was talking about. He said, “you know, lay your hands on their heads and pray for them.”
I didn’t know how to tell him, I was taught to keep my hands to myself. I feebly answered no.
He said they do some laying of hands, but I wouldn’t have to if it makes me uncomfortable.
I am pretty sure everything about this makes me uncomfortable, so what’s a little hand-laying among prisoners and scared girl in closed toe shoes with regurgitated biscuit on her frock.
The Deacon has ministered to prisoners for 14 years. He said he isn’t any better than they are – he’s just in a better place.
He said the expectation is that God will touch us all.
So, off I go this Sunday with this man I’ve never met to the place no one ever wants to go — to touch and be touched.
At the end of our conversation, he said, “Well, I can tell you are excited.”
Um, excited is not quite the word I would use.