What a joy to see 127 men file in… Isaiah 61:1 came to life before our eyes!
Wayburn and I were so excited to wake up early Saturday morning. We were going to Kingsley, near Traverse City, to visit the men at Pugsley Correctional Facility. This was our third concert there. We always tell the men, “We’ll be back!” as returning again is an important way to let them know that we care.
Another reason for our excitement was that our board treasurer, Roger Wardell, and two of his friends, Doug and Joshua—who live in the Traverse City area—would be joining us. They are all successful business men. Doug and Joshua are leaders in a small church which they started with the purpose to evangelize the community. It means so much to the men when outsiders come and visit.
Everyone pitched in, pulling the bags full of our equipment across the yard, and helping set up for the concert.
What a joy to see 127 men filing in. Chaplin Pelky told us that this was the best-attended program they have ever had. We saw several men from other prisons we’ve been to, who had been transferred to Pugsley—it was great to see them. With big smiles and great enthusiasm they had told us they had invited others, saying, “You don’t want to miss this concert.” It was wonderful to see that these men are living in the Spirit, serving God faithfully, and that they were so enthusiastic about this opportunity.
On the other hand, the prisoners who had never been to an “Inside Prison Ministries” concert seemed sad and discouraged, overall. We had noticed this before when we’ve been to this facility. Prison life is difficult and even though there are many believers inside prison, the majority live with deep hurt, anger, and despair—which manifests itself in detachment and discouragement.
As Wayburn began to sing our first song we watched the Spirit of the Lord fill the gym. They looked pleasantly surprised that someone of his caliber would come and do a concert for them. We could literally see their countenance change as the words began to penetrate their hearts. One gentleman in particular stood out. He cried through every song. It was if he was completely alone with God, just pouring his heart out to Him through every word.
I saw the young man sitting next to him staring at him in amazement—that this man was openly crying in front of all the other prisoners. Soon, the young man also began to cry. All across the gym you could see the tears flowing as these men were reconciling their hearts with their Heavenly Father.
Once again I had the privilege speaking to the men from the voice of their mothers, grandmother, sister, wife, or child. I shared that God is goodness and kindness and faithfulness and He is God almighty. He is holy, and righteous, and powerful and pure, He is all knowing, He is the lily of the valley…the bright and morning star, His ways are right, His word eternal, He’s our Savior, our guide, our peace, our joy, our comfort, our Lord and He rules our lives.
I told them many more wonderful things about our awesome God and the more I shared, the louder they cheered, clapping, crying and lifting hands toward heaven. I had to shout into the microphone to be heard above the cheering. Broken men giving praise to our God for all He’s done for them. It was such a huge blessing to see. The Holy Spirit was at work bringing healing, comfort, peace, hope and joy to the broken hearted. Isaiah 6:11 says “The spirit of the sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, and proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” What a glorious thing to see the power of the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of the hurting!
After the concert we invited the men who received Christ and those who recommitted their lives to God to come forward and receive one of our cards. On the card they can check boxes if they are recommitting their lives to God, if they would like to receive a Bible, get involved in a Bible study, or if they would like to know more about receiving Christ.
Normally, we will have between 10-20 men come forward to fill out a card. But at this event, I had the cards in my hands and soon I was surrounded by 75 to 100 men who had their hand out reaching for a card. We’ve never had anything like this before. We actually ran out of cards and so they were finding pieces of paper to write on or getting a card from another prisoner and filling out the backside of their card. It was as if this was their chance to reach for God. They wanted more of Jesus, the one who offers forgiveness and peace. There were 6 decisions for salvation, 16 recommitments and many, many request for Bibles and Bible studies.
Remember the man who cried through the whole concert, on every song? He came up to us afterword, glowingly telling us “This is a great day!” He said that during our song “Gotta Forgive Them,” he released the hatred and unforgiveness that he had stored up for the man who murdered his daughter. He said he was so moved by the song that he knew it was time.
He shared the story of how he had retaliated and committed a terrible crime and that’s what landed him in prison. But he said that now, after releasing the unforgiveness, he “felt a burden lifted” and thanked us for coming. We thank God for giving him victory over anger and deliverance from long-held bitterness!
As we began to head back across the prison yard toward the gate, our new guests Doug and Joshua were already busy talking with the Chaplin to see how they could come back and begin a Bible study with the men who had come forward. Wayburn and I were ecstatic to see how God was already working to bring discipleship into the lives and hearts of these men! We praise God for His faithfulness and we give Him all the glory and praise, for He is truly the risen Lord and Savior of the world.