Typically when we are on the road in the morning to visit a prison we stop for breakfast, get snacks, and use the bathroom. Yesterday we stopped and purchased rope, a pocket knife, and duct tape. These are traditionally things that the Saints Prison Ministry handbook, and pretty much every prison TV show says that you really shouldn’t purchase prior to going to prison!
The day started at 3:30 am. Our team met and we left the Morton McDonald’s parking lot at 4:30 am to make it to the front gates at Vandalia at 7:30 am. We were off to a great start and several guys had gone back to sleep. Somewhere about 45 minutes into the trip, the bus passenger door had flown open and was flopping in the wind. We got it to close a couple of times but it was obvious that it was going to be an issue. We stopped at a gas station and looked up and down the aisles for whatever MacGyver would purchase to repair our door. We found some duct tape, rope, and a pocket knife and did our best NASCAR pit stop repair to the door so we could still get back on the road and get to the prison on time.
Missionary Athlete, Sam Isbell, was the first one to crack the joke, “Hey God is already opening doors for us today!”
We arrived at the prison at 7:38 am and we were on the field by 8:00 am. We saw a crowd of 15 guys and had a fun morning with them. We won the game and Darrell Pine did a great job of sharing the Gospel from the book of Romans. The yard time was pretty short, so we didn’t have much time for the one on one interaction that we usually do. Several of our guys, however, had opportunities to pray with some of the men on yard before they had to leave.
We had a couple of hours to kill by ourselves in the prison gym before our next session. We shot some hoops (reaffirming our call to be a softball team and not a basketball team!) and played some ping pong. Times like this can be a little boring, but it is nice to have the fellowship time between teammates. This is often when we will discuss what struggles we are going through at work, in our marriages, or our parenting. We also will discuss what God is doing in our own lives.
After the gym break, we got to go to the chapel and eat some pizza before our next game. During our lunch, one of the prison wardens stopped by to say thank you for visiting. While talking to the warden, Missionary Athlete, Darrell Pine mentioned to him that it would be great if we could possibly see a few more guys than just the prison team. The Warden told him that he would see what he could do and he made a phone call to get more men to come out to the yard. We got back out to the field and we saw around 100 guys during our game. We were thrilled that God opened that door and allowed us to minister to several more guys than we were planning on! We played well again and won the game. Jeremy Test shared his testimony and Ben Morrow shared the Gospel from the book of John. We got to shake hands and hug several guys as they left to go back to their dorms.
We handed out 83 Gospels total on the day and saw 23 men indicate that they made a decision to follow Jesus. It was a great day to be involved in prison ministry and see how God opened doors by allowing more men to come out to the yard. On the way out, we took a picture in front of the sign by the prison, re-duct taped up our door, and headed for home!