It is my absolute pleasure to introduce you all to my dear sweet, Southern friend, Carmen Horne this week. I’m so impressed by her Move Toward the Mess in Prison Ministry and I think you will be, too!!
Finding Freedom in Unlikely Places
by: Carmen Horne
Every time Pastor Roseberry and his wife were guest speakers at my local church, I would feel uncomfortable. They are passionate leaders of a prison ministry, InnerFaith, and as he spoke I would be reminded of that pesky little verse about visiting those in prison.
At the close of service on each visit, I hurried from the church so I could avoid Pastor Roseberry. His questions about participating with his wife, Christine, and her team of volunteers in their ministry to incarcerated women made me antsy. The kind of antsy that you get when you are trying to run from the Holy Spirit. Ugh. Why do people try to get up in my business and present me with opportunities to do what I have NEVER wanted to do.
Go To Prison
You may find this hard to believe but my goals have never included, “Go to prison.” It ain’t on my bucket list. I’m a good girl. I try to obey the law. Why? Because I should, and I don’t want to go to jail! You know how some people say, “I wonder what it looks like inside a prison? I wonder how prison food tastes? Where do visitors go to the restroom?” (Come on. You know you want to know where visitors go to the restroom safely.) I don’t wonder. I watch TV. I’ve seen some movies.
This particular Sunday as I innocently walked from my Sunday School class into the foyer, my steps slowed. Guess who greeted me? Yep, Russell Roseberry. I got a bit anxious. “It’s OK,” I thought. Squelching any Holy Spirit promptings in the situation was becoming easier. Can’t I just donate some money?
Who Needs Hope?
Bro. Russell always brings a great message. As I sat there, I begin to think, (don’t you hate when that happens?) “Carmen, if you are a hope coach, who in the world would need more hope than a woman in prison away from her family and friends? Struggling with the disappointment that she feels in herself as she lives out the consequences of the bad choices she’s made.”
I did what I knew I would do as soon as I felt this in my spirit – stopped at the table in the foyer, got the paperwork, and why in the world did I give her my cell number and email address. The next thing I did was look for Karen.
My good friend, Karen, (who I talked into going with me) and I vacillated between fear and anxiety to bravery and excitement. It really was all fun and games until we watched the video training and had to sign a waiver concerning all manner of bodily harm. The Roseberry’s assured us that they had never had a hostage situation in all their thirty years of ministering in prisons. Great.
Finding Common Ground
We were near panic mode on arrival day. After all the entrance preliminaries, we walked in. To say that the women inside were no different than those on the outside will seem hard to believe, I know. We spent the day in the “yard” with them and as I looked all around me I saw young and not so young women that in many cases looked just like…me…or my daughter…or my niece…or my sister…or my mom.
Revival was the purpose of our visit and revival we had. I can’t remember one woman turning down my team’s invite to revival services. Eagerness was on almost every face. They were so friendly, respectful and creative. I learned how to make candy out of sugar, coffee creamer, and a microwave. I listened to stories about their babies and looked at pictures of beautiful kids. Over and over as we visited during the day we asked could we pray for them and over and over they said,
“Pray for my kids.”
“Pray for me to stay sober when I get out.”
“Pray that I will stay out of trouble and not come back:”
“Pray I get a job. I lost my nursing license.”
“Pray for my momma.”
“Pray for my kid’s caregivers.”
“Pray my baby doesn’t forget me.”
“Pray my husband doesn’t leave.”
Every night service was standing room only. Writing these words now quickens my heart. We stayed for two hours after service that first night praying with these spiritually hungry ladies. Countless re-dedicated their lives to Christ and thirty were baptized right there on prison grounds Sunday after service.
Moving Toward the Mess Changed Me
Friends, that first prison visit changed my life and it changed my view of “who” was behind those walls that I have tried to avoid. Me and my ministry buddy, Karen, returned from our second visit this spring. We saw a few familiar faces and some new ones. We watched mommas greet their kids that they haven’t seen in a long time on Family Day. We experienced God move a storm away from the campus so that family day could go forward. More importantly, the women experienced God change the weather that day for them.
It has been worth every scary minute, every prison meal, and every sting of aching feet that I have experienced to know that lives were changed.
Will you “go” forward in ministry the next time you feel Holy Spirit moving on you to “go”? Keep your eyes and your heart open to His nudging. You might be like me and walk through locked doors and see freedom in the most unlikely place.
“‘I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
Matthew 25:36-40 ESV
Carmen Horne serves women as a Board Certified Advanced Christian Life Coach. She is passionate about helping women learn to change their perspective on the unexpected. She is a contributing writer for Sweet to the Soul Ministries and Life Letter Café. Carmen has been published in 101 Secrets to a Happy Marriage, Thomas Nelson Publishers, The Message magazine, Just Between Us magazine, and several online websites. She is a wife and mom who loves nibbling dark chocolate and sitting on the beach.
Linking Up With
For more encouragement please join the discussions on these fabulous blog link ups – Suzanne Eller, Thought Provoking Thursday, Susan B. Mead, Faith Filled Friday, Grace and Truth, Faith and Fellowship Friday, Grace and Truth Friday, Good Morning Monday, Soul Survival, Monday Musings, Rah Rah Link Up, Tell His Story, Woman to Woman Wednesday, Women With Intention Wednesday, Sitting Among Friends, Testimony Tuesday, Planting Roots, and Fresh Market Friday.