I was surprised to find Him there, not sure why. Jesus said in His own words, “I was in prison and you came to visit me.”( Matthew 5:26b) He said we would find Him there. The day we were getting the tour of the jail and getting the rundown of all the rules we had to follow, I had not noticed Him. Actually I noticed fear was growing in me, as to what we were getting into with stories of tasers, and the SWAT team doing a drill around us. But then the man started talking about the revolving door and I remembered why we wanted to do a Bible Study in the jail. Jesus had come to set the prisoners free (Luke 4:18) and we were here to pass that message along.
Bible Study in jail surprised me. It was raw and real. There was no fooling anyone with their lives. They were wearing orange. They were behind bars. They were going to return to a cell later after we were gone. They knew they were guilty and needed help. Many were able to see that what they were doing was not working and they needed something different to change their life. There was a longing and hunger for freedom that church Bible Study just does not have. It is so easy to fool ourselves when we think we are in control of our lives, or at least the appearances in our life, but these women could not hide behind nice clothes, or houses, cars, relationships, or jobs, it was just them and their rap sheet.
But some would remember what they had learned at some point in their life and remember that Jesus still loved them and was seeking after them. They would pull out the Recovery Bible they could get from the social worker, and start reading, and slowly others would gather. Some who had never heard about Jesus and could not imagine that He had come to jail to find them would meet Him for the first time. Then the sacred echoes would start as we would do a lesson and they would share how that connected to what they read that day or some of them were talking about earlier. They would hold each other accountable and encourage one another. And yes, we had to break the no touching rule with hugs and laying our hands on people as we prayed and asked bold prayers for these women. We watched as God set the captives free. I learned so much from these ladies. These women wanted more and they knew they needed more. Jesus’ presence was so obvious. These ladies helped my eyes adjust to see we were not bringing Jesus to the jail with us, He was already there waiting for someone to point Him out and connect with Him. He had left the 99 to find the one lost sheep and was willing to be with them wherever they were because He loves them and came to set them free. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”( 2 Cor 3:17)