My first visit to our local women’s correctional facility was with a small dance ministry nearly thirteen years ago. Leading up to that visit, I read about prison ministry in the Moms in Prayer newsletter. Intrigued by what was surely not a coincidence, I began to pray about what God wanted me to do with this opportunity. Taking the safe route (my usual go-to response), I decided to speak for a few minutes about Moms in Prayer at an upcoming correctional facility visit to see how the idea was received.
Only a few residents attended our program, but when I spoke about Moms in Prayer and the impact it has had on my life and the lives of my children, I noticed one woman with tears rolling down her face. Over the next few weeks, I couldn’t get that sweet young mom’s face out of my mind so I reached out to the chaplain about starting Moms in Prayer meetings at this correctional facility.
When our small entourage of Moms in Prayer volunteers started regular visits, it was minimum security, housing around 90 women. Within that first year, we learned they would be moving across the street to a former juvenile correctional center with the capacity of nearly 400! We were amazed and thankful that God had placed us in the correctional facility “for such a time as this.”
Over the years, our group of four to six volunteers has prayed with hundreds of women and for their countless children and grandchildren. The number of women in attendance has ranged from zero to nearly 50, but during every visit, the Holy Spirit has been present giving hope, healing, and mercy, not only to the residents, but to those of us visiting them. In sharing my experience of prayer at the correctional facility, I describe it as a most difficult and a most beautiful time.
The sincere faith of many, the vulnerable honesty of those searching for answers and hope, and the chance to hear their prayers for each other, are both humbling and uplifting.
There are numerous stories of God’s faithfulness over the years, but I will share a few that stand out to me. Many times the women come to our meetings not really knowing what’s in store. In the first few minutes, someone will often say, “I don’t pray out loud.” We assure them that God hears their unspoken prayers and that there is no pressure to pray aloud. But one evening, when a woman was telling me her requests for her child so that I could pray for her, I realized she was no longer speaking to me, but was actually communicating her requests to God. I’m not sure if she realized that shift, but it was evidence to me of God’s work in her heart.
Sadly, a frequent prayer of the women is that they will hear from their child or at least hear that they’re okay. Many of the women know nothing about their child’s situation or have not had contact with them for many years. During one of our visits, we prayed with a mom that she would hear something about her teenage son. At our next meeting, that mom arrived bursting with praise and thanks. Another resident had received a photo of her daughter going to prom with the first mom’s son! From there, the door appeared to be opening for future communication between mom and son. All of us present that night rejoiced with her and thanked God for His compassion, love and care!
Lastly, when I was visiting the correctional facility for a different volunteer program, a resident I had known for a while, escorted me across the grounds and said something that touched my heart to the core.
Sharing her appreciation, she said, “When someone like you takes time to come here and love me, when my own mother didn’t love me, that helps me see that I can be loved by God.”
That statement has taken root in my heart and is the reason I can’t wait to return to the correctional facility in person as soon as COVID restrictions are lifted.
I am confident that God can use my small act of “showing up” to demonstrate His love for the incarcerated and change hearts for His glory. I don’t know what became of the sweet mom with tears in her eyes my first night at the facility, but I know God has planted countless seeds of faith and hope through many hours of prayer that He will cultivate and multiply according to His grace.
Will you pray with me for incarcerated mothers:
Gracious, Loving, Heavenly Father, thank you for opening doors to share Moms in Prayer with incarcerated women. Thank You that as we join our prayers through your Word, You give hope, healing, and peace. We ask, Lord, that the women in prison would feel your presence and grow in faith even as we are not allowed to pray with them in person. Please bring the day soon that we can be with the women again, sharing our hearts and prayers. Thank you that even though we cannot be inside the gates currently, You are there. Please protect their children and families and bring reconciliation and forgiveness where it is needed according to Your Wisdom.
In Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.
Find out more about the Moms in Prayer Prison Ministry, including opportunities to volunteer or join the prayer team. Contact USA Prison Ministry Liaison, Nancy Turock Prison@MomsInPrayer.org or Global Prison Ministry Liaison, Kay West kwest@MomsinPrayer.org.
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Author of this story, Becky, loves the outdoors – mountains or beach! Her main jobs have been wife, mother, and dance teacher, although all three are more “joys” than “jobs.” She has been married to her high school sweetheart for 38 years and has three grown, married children, and four adorable grandchildren. Becky frequently volunteered at her children’s schools but since becoming an empty-nester, prison ministry has been her main focus. Becky has been involved with Moms in Prayer for 25 years and still prays with the same moms from those K-12 years, now praying for their adult children and grandchildren.