This is a story about carnivals and baptisms, perseverance and victory, and answers to a mother’s prayers.
Yesterday Byron and I again volunteered at the carnival Wilsonville Rotary puts on each summer for the female inmates and their children at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. Inmates have to be at a certain behavior level to be eligible to participate. It’s a great incentive for them all year long as it’s the only time in the year they have opportunity to have a meal with and play with their kids for a day. They get to experience a nearly “normal” day and be reminded of what’s awaiting them when they finish their time. Caregivers (usually family members) travel from all over the state bringing inmates’ children to them. Yesterday I noticed and commented on the cute outfits many children were wearing. One girl said, “I got this yesterday.” Yes, they are excited to spend time with their moms and are on their best behavior too.
Byron and I spent from 11:30-3:30 out in the 100° weather (under a shade tent) assisting hundreds of kids in playing the skee roll game. (See picture below. Ours was just like that, but we used whiffle balls instead of the smaller ones in the picture.) The whiffle balls made it very difficult, as they bounced around the targets and seldom stayed in the target. We were giving kids as many shots as they wanted to try and get a ball in each of the three holes. It was an interesting study in psychology. All of the moms were encouraging to the kids and had fun with them. I noticed the grade school age kids took the game as a great challenge. They persisted ‘til they got the feel of the game and could be successful. The middle school and upward aged kids tried a few times. If they weren’t successful, they just quit. They wanted easy success, or at least not to look like a fool to keep trying and missing. The approximately 10 year old boy at the end of the time decided he wanted to rack up as many points as he could. He was determined to be the day’s high scorer. He got to 2,300 points, definitely the high score of the day, before we had to close down. I was impressed with his perseverance, especially since only 1 in 5 or 10 of his shots were a score.
I saw a spiritual parallel in the kids’ approach to this game. The Bible places great emphasis on perseverance. Romans 5:3-5 tells us, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” The strength of character which develops our ability to grab onto the confident hope of our salvation comes through persevering through difficulties. Just like the teens who gave up on the game when they couldn’t easily conquer it, we’ll never know spiritual victory if we give up when things are tough and don’t let God develop our character. We’re not disappointed, even if it looks like failure, because the Holy Spirit fills our hearts with His love. Galatians 6:9 says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” We can’t give up too soon. Persevere through hardships and difficulties, and you’ll never be disappointed.
I’ll be going back to prison next Sunday for our monthly church service. We’re going to have an outdoor water baptismal, baptizing about 25 inmates. One of those to be baptized came up to me yesterday with her family. She said she was really excited about being baptized next week. Her mom was with her and the kids. The mom reached out and with tears in her eyes shook my hands and thanked me for our ministry. We didn’t get to chat, but it made me think that many of the inmates have mamas and daddies, grandmas and grandpas who are praying for them to find the Lord or to come back to the Lord. It’s humbling to think of being the answer to someone’s prayers. Maybe that’s why we’re told in Hebrews 13:3, “Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, as if you felt their pain in your own bodies.” We’re all intertwined with each other as the human family. If we or one of our loved ones were in prison, we’d be praying for the Lord to send someone to reach out with the love and Gospel of Christ. What a joy to be the answer to that prayer for someone else. Besides, Jesus said in Matthew 25:39-40, “‘When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” We have the privilege to minister to Jesus as we minister to “the least of these” who He so dearly loves.
Stay tuned next week for the report of the baptismal service. It’s going to be glorious! Also, my friend Kelsey who is a local tv reporter was at the event yesterday. She’s doing a story about the event and prison. I’ll let you know when and where that will be aired. Carnivals and baptisms. Just an slice of life from inside prison.