Every Thursday afternoon I go to jail… I go with 2 other friends from MTC (and a few guys who go to the guys side) and we have the privilege of teaching the Bible to the women there!
Two weeks ago, I found myself sitting on a stainless steel stool and talking with what seemed like a wonderful Christian woman who was very active in our lesson that week. We had a great conversation and I already started growing fond of her and was excited she would be a part of the study. I found out later, after reading a newspaper article, of the brutal murder she had committed many years earlier and had recently been convicted about confessing to the authorities. Wow!
It was strange to evaluate my preconceived notions and judgments I have of certain crimes and the people who commit them. When we got here to the MTC (August 2012), we got the opportunity to choose a ministry to be involved in and hopefully put to use some of the Bible teaching, discipleship, teamwork skills that we are learning here in Missionary Training.
This is the first time that I have actually taught the Bible chronologically from creation to Christ to adult women and had an actual audience! Many of the women in jail are struggling from addiction, are broken over situations with significant others and children that are living with relatives or in foster care, and have made other bad choices that weigh on them. Many of them don’t understand why they are having these struggles or why the world is so hard… teaching the Bible from the beginning, where we explain how sin and suffering and pain came into the world and how it was not God’s original plan for the world, has proven much more meaningful than just jumping into the Gospel or the New Testament.
Laying the foundations for how the world got here and telling them about God’s promise in Genesis 3:15 that He will send a deliverer to save them from their sin–just minutes after the first sin was committed–shows them the faithfulness of God and His commitment to His promise. It is worth it to take this time!
That is also part of what we’re learning in missionary training here. We are learning that when you go into a cross-cultural setting, you must take the time (several years!) to learn the language, culture, and worldview of the people and then start teaching them at the very beginning so that they have a solid foundation for understanding who and what God is. This process, although time consuming, prevents a lot of confusion and syncretism.
Overall, it has been so neat to see God using us to teach these women in jail and I feel that, as a mother, I can especially relate to many of them. I am also seeing first-hand the challenges of real ministry because it can be hard to gauge their understanding of the lessons or to decide what to do when a new lady joins in the middle of the Old Testament teaching but they don’t have any biblical background.
It is also neat to work as part of a ministry team where we have different strengths, backgrounds, and ideas. Please pray for me and my team as we continue in this ministry!