Similarities between prison and heaven

Published 10:00 am Sunday, August 14, 2022

The prison ministry continues to be a rewarding experience and investment. Even though the numbers of yellow suits that represent the new, non-classified inmates is a continual addition to the incarcerated, hope continues to grow. God is moving in the midst of what some call the devil’s playground. It seems such an unlikely place for hope and freedom and renewal, but that’s exactly what the new converts are experiencing.

I can’t relate to their arrests, jail time or court proceedings, but I can relate to their being a prisoner of the enemy. I once was lost but now am found! I, too, carried the damning label of being in the enemy’s camp until the Good Shepherd began calling my name.

It’s amazing to be a small participant in the major work of Christ. I have seen first hand that the Savior can never be put in a box. Who ever heard of churches being planted inside of a prison? Who would have thought that born-again female believers, wearing striped plants with CONVICT printed on the back of their tops, could stand behind a podium in a guarded building and preach the gospel? I’ve watched how God can break denominational “rules” in order to bring the lost to a saving knowledge. I’ve watched how women with negative self images begin walking in the truth that all are created in the image of God.

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I’m slowly learning that prison talk is a language of its own, and that these female inmates are straightforward in their speech. There is no need to put on airs where their clothes are uniforms with only three colors — and they don’t get to choose those.

When I stop at the gate entrance, I have to follow the same rules as those incarcerated. I have to wear a badge that tells guards that I’ve been schooled in basic rules and behavior inside the prison. I’m to dress in modest attire, no jewelry or watches. Cell phones and purses stay in my vehicle in the parking lot, and my keys are stored in a special unit near the entrance.

I’m to take nothing in and nothing out. If I should break those rules, I would forfeit any future entrances and possibly threaten the ministry that must adhere to strict rules.

After several visits, I’m adjusting to the uniqueness of this institution. However I haven’t gotten used to being without a phone, pen, notebook or watch. I constantly wish for my phone to take pictures of the worshipers or pen and notebook to take notes of what I’m experiencing. I’m stripped of every item that’s usually a part of my person.

Then I see a deeper picture. This is how I’ll face Jesus someday. I won’t have any lists of good things I’ve done that others might not remember. I won’t be wearing sentimental items like my wedding band and anniversary necklace. I won’t even have my study Bible to convince God of all my notes and the worn leaves showing my study time.

I’ll face Him with absolutely nothing I’ve held onto here. The only thing that will shed light on how I’ve lived will be the investments I’ve made in eternity. Who would have even dreamed that a prison and heaven would have anything in common?

Letters to Camille Anding may be sent to P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS, 39602.