Feeling Normal Behind Bars.

As I walk past the gigantic trash can, past the parked cop cars, behind an erie building that could belong to an evil witch- the landscape looks more like a scene from a bad horror flick than a city court house. After walking a good ways we finally make it around to the front of the fortress. Where we by pass the long visitor’s line, enter the building and walk through a metal detector. I hand my driver’s license over to the guard in exchange for a “visitor escort only” badge. I clip it to the top of my shirt and continue to the elevators where we enter into a new maze- a maze of numerous locked doors that we have to wait and get buzzed to enter them and then rows and rows of cell after cell after cell with tiny 2×2 windows on the door. No, I’m not pretending to be Dorothy following the yellow brick road in order to find the Wizard of Oz, instead I am visiting jail.

This has become a weekly routine for me. We go in to teach a two-hour basic discipleship, life skills course. And every time I go, I can’t help but smile and laugh in my head when I’m walking through the maze. Why? Because to me, it seems exactly like a place where I would find Jesus- where I would feel normal again.

you see… for me there use to be something magical about worshipping at church with 2,000 other people, most of whom I had never met. I use to enjoy Christmas because I got to spend money on those that I love to show my appreciation. Going to the movies was a monthly occurrence and being around people felt normal. but I always knew there was something more, something missing. It seems that living overseas for a year in third world countries has a way of making what use to be considered uncomfortable to you, now your norm and things that use to be comfortable to you now make you uncomfortable. But no matter what it is that causes each and everyone of us to feel uneasy, the bottom line is no one likes to feel uncomfortable.

On the race I was forced to face things I use to blind my eyes to because if I didn’t think about it, the problem didn’t exists. I was completely broken and refined and I learned how to lead others into their callings and in turn help change the world. I saw with my own eyes that I was truly made for more than coffee breaks and movie dates- we all are. I was made to encourage and empower, to hug, to love, to hold babies, to teach and preach, to speak life, to challenge others, to pray and help, to grow and to fall down, to pick up others and to learn how to let myself be picked up by others. to be transparent. transparent means that light passes through with clarity. easily recognized. easily detected.

that is exactly how my friends are in the jail. this is why at times I feel at home, like I am back on the race there. They are not afraid to ask me my struggles or tell me I look sad one day. They are not afraid to ask for prayer and fall to their knees to God. To be honest, after the first night I visited I didn’t want to leave. I kept thinking (in a joking way of course) “okay, what can I do to be thrown into the dorm with them, hmm…”

Yes, actions do have consequences and if you asked most women in there they would say they know exactly why they are there- some even praising God for being placed in jail because if they weren’t there they know they would be dead. But other than a matter of obeying the law or not, my friends are no different than me. We all belong to the same God. We have the same origin and human nature of sin. Just like the lost people I met in Africa and in Haiti and in China and in America…

In jail… they are prisoners and I am a visitor. BUT in God’s Kingdom… we are all guilty and all forgiven.

During our Christmas lesson we had the ladies do cardboard testimonies. If you don’t know what those are I highly suggest you watch the video below…


Cardboard testimonies are powerful one to two word declarations of who you use to be BEFORE Christ and then flip the page over to revel who you have BECOME because of Christ. These are just a few of the ones from my friends who are locked up, most of them are mothers, soon-to-be mothers, daughter, sisters and aunts just like you and I.

drug user… not anymore
insane… see clearly
selfish… selfless
in bondage… free of pleasing the flesh
insecure… secure in Him
addicted to drugs… addicted to Jesus!
junkie… mother
not saved… saved now
full of fear and controlling… dependent on God
mad at everyone… grateful
afraid of being alone… okay being with God only
security in others… rooted in Him

as one of the girls told me “we’re all just broken Jesus girls…” so true.

Jesus died and rose again for His sheep… every single one of us who has gone astray. He came not only as a means to bail us out, but He came to wipe our records clean. To release us all from behind the bars of our own sin in return for His capture. a switching of prisoners if you will- the worthy for the unworthy.


5 thoughts on “Feeling Normal Behind Bars.

  1. Woody,

    Thank you for sharing, and thank you for going in to teach these women. I know when I was in jail, women like you who took the time to care for me and minister to me made all the difference. Jesus used my time in there to draw me closer to Him and grow a faith in me that is unshakable.

  2. I am so encouraged hearing what you’re up to Woody. The road is not easy, but it is well worth it–this I am learning myself. Never let go or forget what the Lord has spoken to you and called you to do. Love you sister!

    “Do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.” Deut. 4:9

  3. Simply awesome. Thank you for answering the call to go into jail and visit our sisters in Christ. So easy to say “outside my comfort zone” yet you responded “Lord, here am I, send me!”. May the Lord bring more workers to the field during Act to Impact!

  4. Woody – we have not met yet, but I am “Miss Laurie” who is on Lis’ Board and helps teach, administrate, whatever! And yes – it is a trip walking in there, especially getting caught between the metal doors – i call that “no-man’s land.” I love the ladies and i love you for giving them some of you! Hope to meet soon.

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