I’ve been a Christian all my life, getting baptized when I was one month old. I was raised in a Christian home where we prayed and attended church every week. In my lifetime, I’ve taken many religion classes in school, attended hundreds of Sunday School classes, and have been involved with many youth ministry groups. I’ve also attended church services and Bible Studies as long as I can remember. But not once have I learned how to teach God’s Word while being an inmate in a prison.
Granted, I never imagined myself in prison in a million years, and there probably is no college religion class on being a witnessing inmate to other inmates. I have witnessed to many kids and adults about Christ in my short lifetime, leading Bible studies to young kids, youth, and other adults. But witnessing to prisoners is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
I must say I’ve been pretty sheltered throughout my life. I went to a Christian grade school, attended a Christian college, and even taught at a few Christian elementary schools. I’ve worked at Christian camps and most of my friends and family members are Christians. Notice the theme here? So to sum things up, I haven’t been in many dangerous situations or surrounded by many non-Christians. I’ve lived a very safe life. When I came to prison my eyes were opened to all sorts of situations and circumstances that shocked me, and still shocks me even today. This is an evil place and Satan rules here!
When witnessing to someone outside of prison, the person I spoke to generally listened, sounded interested and even asked questions. They were very respectful. When witnessing to an inmate, one is ridiculed, laughed at, argued with, and the inmate is as stubborn as can be. They give no respect at all. They have their own opinions and love to take the Bible out of context. No matter what I say or prove, their hearts are so hard that a chisel can’t even crack it. Inmates in general are stubborn, selfish, rebellious, and only want to do things their way. (I admit, I could see myself that way before prison). When a conversation on God or church is on the brink of the horizon, I sometimes cringe because I know where it could lead, but I also say a quick prayer. I’ve learned my lesson a while back not to cram Christianity down people’s throats. When the time comes, approach the topic gently. Arguing does absolutely no good.
There are so many “lost” souls here. And most of the people I hang with on a daily basis are, unfortunately, part of the lost. It hurts me to think that unless these people change their ways and come to know Jesus, I’ll never see them in heaven. There is no easy way to witness to inmates in prison, even those you are with every day.
But, after all I just said, I do believe I have found the secret to witnessing to other inmates. 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For the Lord does not give us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love and sound judgment.” God does not want us to be scared when witnessing. Instead, He gives us sound judgment to do what is right. Also, Matthew 5:16 says “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and give praises to your Father in heaven.” I love the first four words – let your light shine. So that is what I try to do. Of course, I fail at times. But I do choose to smile, to lift someone up when needed, and encourage others. I chose to make people laugh, to say thanks, and to compliment. I choose to be an inspiration and to show that Christ is living in me.
An inmate once came up to me and said, “You are always smiling, even when you run the bases in a softball game, you are smiling.” Another person told me, “I want what you have!” I said, “What do you mean?” And he said, “You’re always happy and in a good mood and can get along with anyone.” I told him that I want my life to reflect Jesus, and once you get to know Him, your life will be happy also.”
Ephesians 4:29 says “Do not let unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful in building others up, so it’ll benefit those that listen.” Prisoners don’t want to be preached at. They want to learn things on their own. So they do it by observation, by watching how others lead their lives.
People everywhere are always watching and listening, especially when it comes to other Christians. They want to see how Christians live and how we lead our lives. If you lead a life by letting your light shine, you can and will inspire and impact others to live that way, devoting their life to God. People are watching! You preach more with what you do than what you say to them. May you let your light shine today wherever you go, so that you, too, may lead others to Christ.
This Little Gospel Light of Mine, I’m Gonna Let It Shine!
Please pray for inmates who need to know Christ; pray for chaplains who work in our prisons; pray for me as I witness to others in this place.