Day 1 in the Prisons
God is doing amazing work in and through The House of Blessing! Monday our team left to minister to men and women incarcerated in Thai prisons. For the past three months, we have studied, prayed, and prepared for this day, and we were excited to see how the Lord might use our small offering.
Our first stop was a women’s prison for drug offenders. Here we met Natee, the prison matron and a dear friend of Chapel Hill. Two years ago I had the privilege of meeting Natee as she came to the States to visit and share her experiences with others working in the correctional system. It was such a delight to see her again and to watch the way God is working through her and her growing population of Christian inmates. That morning, we gathered with around 100+ women who came to hear our testimonies. About 30 were believers and the rest were assigned to attend. It was amazing to watch our hosts Joe, who is Thai, and Kayla, our translator, engage the women with funny songs and encouraging words. They laughed and clearly felt connected to both Joe and Kayla. Then two of our team shared their stories. It was amazing to watch, as our words were translated from English to Thai, how God used them to minister hope and healing. We were allowed to break into two groups. In the first group Pastor Bill and others encouraged our Christian sisters to stay strong in their faith, to encourage each other, and to help one another grow. It was a beautiful opportunity to share together the hope we have in Jesus. In the second group Madison, our Pastoral Intern, shared the gospel with the other women and prayed for them. It was beautiful to watch how God is working through these women and the favor He has with the leadership there.
Our next stop was a men’s prison where we had the opportunity to meet with the prison warden. Although not a believer, he was a former World Vision-sponsored child and credits God with his growth and position in the world. Here we were allowed to peek into one of the toughest prisons in the area. Men here live 40 to a single 20 by 40 foot cell where they sleep on the floor and share 1 toilet. The men incarcerated here are convicted mostly on drug crimes, but they also carry the shame of murder, violence, and drug dependency. It would be easy to focus on the darkness that is present in the prison, but I want you to know that God is at work bringing light into some of the darkest places! We had the privilege of sharing with over 200 men who were within 2 years of release. Two of our teammates, Aaron Espy and Curtis Fries, shared passionately about the One who sets us all free. Both men have a powerful testimony of God’s goodness. Our prayer for these inmates is that these men have an increased awareness of God’s individual love for them. At the conclusion, the warden charged these men to move forward in their lives using the biblical principles that Aaron and Curtis had shared. Can you just imagine? The not yet believing warden charged the men to trust in Jesus and “He will make your path’s straight.” (Prov. 3:5-6)
It would be a shame if I didn’t highlight the amazing ministry of the House of Blessing. They are the front line troops engaging for Jesus, faithfully, unhesitatingly, week after week. They painstakingly build relationships with the inmates. They encourage them, and at the end of each time of sharing they remind the inmates that they have a home and a family at the House of Blessing. A place to belong. And they remind them that they are not alone. They have Good Father that knows them, loves them, and that they can have a new identity in Christ! We are so encouraged as we watch Pastor Soonthorn, Joe, Dom, Kayla, and many others minister to those behind the walls and razor wire. Please pray for them and the hard faithful work they are doing!