Move Toward the Mess – Prison Ministry

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!!

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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.

That first prison visit changed my life. And it has been worth every scary minute!… Click To Tweet

“‘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

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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.

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Move Toward the Mess Prison Ministry Carmen Horne

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Linking Up With

For more encouragement please join the discussions on these fabulous blog link ups – Suzanne EllerThought Provoking ThursdaySusan B. MeadFaith Filled FridayGrace and TruthFaith and Fellowship FridayGrace and Truth FridayGood Morning MondaySoul SurvivalMonday MusingsRah Rah Link UpTell His StoryWoman to Woman WednesdayWomen With Intention WednesdaySitting Among FriendsTestimony TuesdayPlanting Roots, and Fresh Market Friday.

25 thoughts on “Move Toward the Mess – Prison Ministry

  1. Such a powerful testimony you share here Carmen. It is amazing what happens when God nudges us out of our comfort zone. It touches my heart that all those women requested prayer. I have a love affair with prayer, and I have seen it manifested in my own life. I hope I can encourage, and inspire many to seek God in prayer. Thank you for your honest and heartfelt post. It reminds us to listen to God’s leading and trust Him. I hope you have a fantastic weekend and may God continue to bless you and yours. Thanks for sharing this Liz. God bless.

    1. Thank you so much Horace. Many of those ladies, like me, seem to feel that prayer was their only hope. In reality, it is. Who can change themselves without God? Jesus is our only hope of redemption and restoration. Some may think they they achieve sobriety without Him. I believe that it is God who brings them through with the goal of showing more and more of Himself as they walk it out. He brings awareness of His provision over time.

  2. This brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face. Such sweet times serving with you. Thank you for “pushing ” me out of my comfort zone for Jesus!

  3. Carmen. What a thoughtful and refreshing way to share about “moving toward the mess.” I understand. When I was in the Army in Fort Leavenworth, I went to the prison to start a Bible Study for the women guards. They were encouraged, inspired and refreshed. You’re a blessing.

    1. Hey Christine, that was a wonderful idea to pour into the hearts of the prison guards. They have a stressful job and I can imagine a discouraging one at times. Thank you so much for helping care for their souls. So glad you stopped by for a visit!

  4. Carmen, Your story inspires me to keep stepping toward my mess. It’s when we keep going a taking those small steps that eventually we’ll come out on the other side. I found this so encouraging. Your story helps us face our fears and keep going! Thank you for sharing! And thank you Liz for hosting Carmen!

    1. Leslie, definitely baby steps. Did you ever see that movie “What About Bob?” It’s so hilarious! One of the main points for Bob was learning to take baby steps toward his fear.

      I’m so glad you stopped by for a visit!

  5. I love your story of how God is using you because of your willingness to step out of your comfort zone, and prison ministry is so important! Several years ago I had the chance to go with a friend to lead worship and speak at a men’s prison and it was amazing to see how positive the response was and how much they appreciated us coming in. It’s the only time I’ve been involved in something like that but it was so worthwhile. Blessings to you in your ministry!

    1. Lesley, thank you for stepping out and pouring into the lives of those men that day. Isn’t it amazing how open they are to the gospel? I felt nothing but appreciation when I went in. I’m so glad you got the same reception. Blessings to you also friend!

  6. What a beautiful and important ministry to be involved in, Carmen. I’ve heard God nudging me toward foster care for many years. My fear of the unknown holds me back. Thank you for this much needed encouragement in your testimony!

    1. Hey Candace, those nudges we receive from the Holy Spirit can be so inconvenient at times can’t they? Our comfort zones are well just so comfy. I’m learning there are some great blessings on the other side though.

      I really think that foster parents rock. Gosh, the opportunity to change the life of a child is inspiring. Lord, give Candace peace to follow your path. Give her strength and courage to take the steps that you have laid out for her and her family. Give her love unending for the children you send her way. Help her see You more than she sees the mess. In the empowering name of Jesus!

  7. That list of prayer requests is heart-breaking. Kind of like the young woman who walked into my house last weekend and asked, “Would you pray for me to have peace and freedom from anxiety about my future?”

    Carmen, I’m so encouraged to read about your ministry friend! Lovely. Inspiring.

    1. Dear Betsy, God has honored us by sending those ladies our way. Gosh, that’s humbling. So glad you were at home to pour into her life. Thank you for stopping byou! xo

  8. Carmen, how sweet to see you. Haven’t caught up with you in such a while. Beautiful testimony of God working in you while giving you the opportunity to work in others. Isn’t that just like Him? Such a loving God, how He cares for us all and His mercy is so abundant. Thanks for sharing, great to see you. ((hug))

  9. I love Carmen’s story. Isn’t that just like our loving God to give us that gentle ‘nudge’ in the direction He wants us to go? (When He knows we are staying safely in our comfort zone!) Oh what God can do through us when we are obedient to Him! And it’s amazing how He even uses those times to help us grow and learn, too. What a beautiful picture of God’s faithfulness. Thank you for sharing Liz and Carmen!

  10. Aw, Liz, I loved this so much! Thank you and Carmen for sharing! And if you happen to want another place to link up, I have one every Thursday…. I got teary-eyed reading this!

  11. Thank you for your work and sharing this! My husband and I once found ourselves in a female drug rehab center and a men’s prison all in one weekend while trying to adopt a child. It was scary, depressing and eye-opening. There is SO MUCH need for Jesus in these places. Thanks for being obedient to Him and serving!

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