Friday, December 12, 2014

Deep Fried Prison Ministry

They came every year to our church camp. A green pick up truck pulled up to the mess hall, giant black iron kettles were unloaded and men donned white aprons. Every Thursday of camp, year after year, they deep fried chicken under the hot summer skies all morning. That fried chicken was a highlight in the summer of every kid and volunteer at camp. Their presence changed our world, but I don't even know their names.

Lucille Chamberlain is remembered for her years of work in a school kitchen, but I remember her for being our cook at church camp. She could have had her summers free, but instead she worked hard in the hot summer camp kitchen. The scent of freshly baked melt-in-your-mouth cinnamon rolls filled the air welcoming us to a new day of learning about God's love.

Every Sunday, nestled in the back corner of our church, you will find Mary and Shirley and Cynthia and Peggy. They are our cookie ladies.  Every year at Vacation Bible School they show up to pass out little cups of Kool-aid and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. For decades, they have greeted little children and for some of those children, they have been not only a highlight of VBS, but the only grandmotherly women some of the children know.

The contributions these Christians, and people just like them, have given to children change the world every day. Love seeds and deed seeds scattered on rocky soil sometimes take root and begin to grow long after they have been forgotten.

What you do for Jesus matters. It matters very much. Just ask any group of prisoners in our weekly services at the prison chapel. Most of them visited a church camp, a Vacation Bible School or a Sunday School at least once. Someone gave them an oatmeal cookie, a piece of fried chicken or a cinnamon roll along with a hug or a kind word.

In the prison, Lila looked at me and smiled, remembering a kind lady who once taught her in Sunday School. "I was so naughty and she was so patient with me. I wish I could thank her. It's so horrible being pushed to the ground and hand cuffed. I felt like my life was over when I came to prison. Then I remembered that lady teaching me the song, "This little light of mine", and I kept thinking about it. And I came to chapel because I wondered if maybe I still have some light in me somewhere. Maybe she could see it. Do you think so?"

I assured her the teacher did see a spark of light in her as a child. Every Monday at the prison I continue to fan into flames the hope a Sunday School teacher planted in Lila's heart. Lila will spend many years in prison, but her chains are gone. She's been set free.

Every time you love a child you participate in prison ministry. The child you love today will need hope on a dark, ugly day when they're pushed to the ground by sin and shackled by a heavy burden. Tuck a spark of hope in the pocket of their jacket to light their way.

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