‘Forgiven’ on my heart
Published 9:00 am Sunday, October 15, 2023
It wasn’t a tent with sawdust floors — far from it. Church volunteers had gathered at the Pearl Prison for Women to be a part of the Rick Gage Go Tell Crusade that’s in the process of “telling” the Good News in the days to come.
The October sun was mimicking the heat of an August day, but an occasional breeze made the outdoor gathering doable. The “yard” was made up of three fenced-in areas for zones A, B and C. The inmates knew their zone and began filing into their designated areas. After a time of prayer, we volunteers joined the inmates in our assigned zones.
I stood alongside the inmates that wore the striped uniforms with “Convicts” printed on their backs. As I looked over the hundreds of inmates, I saw different colored skin, ages and ethnicities. A few were being pushed in wheelchairs, resembling more like a nursing home resident. Their striped pants were the only visible difference.
The worship music began, taking me from my concentration on the vast needs in that place. Many of the inmates knew the upbeat songs and began singing with the leaders. The boombox speakers were covering every corner and crevice on the human stockade.
When the music concluded, Rick Gage with mic in one hand and a worn Bible in the other, began sharing his own story of his sin and Christ’s redemption. For such a large assembly of people, silence captured the environment. The evangelist shared hope — the one commodity that most often is stripped from the incarcerated.
After a clear and basic presentation of the Gospel, Rick Gage asked those wanting a new heart and eternal life in heaven to make it public. “Step forward, step up to the fence, place both hands on the fence and ask for forgiveness of past sins and confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior,” he invited with the boldness of an ancient prophet.
As I looked around, women were walking to the fences, doing just what the evangelist asked. I was experiencing the miracle of rebirths for a number that only God and each individual knew. In the movement of the Holy Spirit, He suddenly moved into MY thoughts. I wasn’t wearing striped pants, but I was guilty of tongue sins — murmuring, complaining, sharing negative news instead of ignoring it. I had stolen God’s time for my own use, hadn’t always honored my parents, told those “little white lies” that I felt were necessary.
Conviction dropped its heavy blanket over my heart. I was guilty. I had broken God’s laws and evaded incarceration by man but not by God. God knew! Repentance was offered to me just like it was to everyone else in that yard. I prayed for those making decisions and asked forgiveness for my own sins.
A soft breeze began to blow. It refreshed the heated air around us, but the winds of the Holy Spirit brought the greater refreshing — the restoring of a cleansed heart. I filed out with the inmates — rejoicing in “Forgiven” stamped on my own heart.
Letters to Camille Anding may be sent to P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602.