Prison Ministry

The Jail Stalker


My pastoral colleague, Paul, and I have ministered for a number of years to inmates at the Shakopee Jail. The weekly Bible studies we lead there did not originate from a strategic vision developed in the sterile confines of a board room. They sprang from the messy reality that a new attendee of our church had taken up residence at the jail for a season. Although we did not know him well, he had sent word that he would appreciate a visit. The look on his haggard face and the tears of appreciation that welled up in his tough-guy eyes were all it took for me to keep going back long after he was released and living in another state.

Jesus’ prophecy concerning God’s final commendation of those who ministered in life to vulnerable people took on new meaning: “I was in prison and you visited to me” (Matt. 25:36). In Jesus’ vignette those receiving this divine accreditation are incredulous: “When did we see you sick or in prison?” they ask God (Matt. 25:39). “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’ ” (Matt. 25:40). God takes special interest in prisoners.

Yet our ministry to these marginalized members of society is far from a one-way extension of mercy. As is standard in Christ’s kingdom, those who give much receive more. Any aid we render to inmates is paid back many times over in lessons learned and skin-tingling evidences that God stalks the darkest recesses of our world.

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