Just a Girl: Thoughts on Prison Ministry
By Susan Wilder
Honestly, I’d never dreaded a Monday evening Bible study before. I prayed as I entered the parking lot, “Lord, I’m just a girl. I’m not really qualified for this.”
My daughter greeted me with the same angst. Maybe we just won’t go in tonight. Maybe no one will even meet us in the gathering space we are assigned. Doors slammed behind us and then we waited in the 6-foot holding space as the next door unlocked thanks to the electronic button pushed from somewhere else. We resolved to go in as just a couple of girls meeting a few other girls to share about the love of an awesome God.
Introductions began as they most often do around a ladies’ Bible study. My daughter and I were excited to partner together in this new study. She began by introducing herself, shared a little about her family, and then cheerfully added, “I’m just glad to be here with you tonight. With three little boys and a husband at home, this feels a little like a girls’ night out for me!”
Several ladies around the tables giggled. As introductions concluded, I added a little about myself and our excitement to study God’s Word with our new friends.
We read together from Genesis 40 about Joseph. As we discussed the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker, we realized Joseph’s interpretation of the dreams brought good news to the cupbearer, who would be restored to his position in the Pharaoh’s house, and bad news to the baker, who would be killed.
As our conversation continued, we read verses from chapters 40 and 41 teaching us that Joseph asked the cupbearer to remember him when his place of service with Pharaoh was restored. We wondered if Joseph had conversations with the cupbearer professing his innocence of the faulty accusation that had actually landed him in prison.
“When two full years had passed…” (Genesis 41:1 NIV®) We speculated about what had happened. The cupbearer forgot about Joseph—for two full years—until Pharaoh had a dream. And then the cupbearer remembered.
Our questions deepened. What did Joseph do during those two years? Whom did he encourage? What did God teach him? How did he experience trust?
One by one, our friends around the table began to share their ideas about Joseph’s time of waiting.
“Maybe he learned to totally depend on God.”
“What if he needed time to really get to know God himself, not just what his parents had taught him?”
“Possibly, he was learning to forgive those who hurt him and he needed that quiet time with God.”
“Maybe, he was there to help someone else in prison come to know God.”
“Could it be that being in prison actually saved his life?”
Listening to their answers and questions, we quickly agreed that each of their thoughts could have been pieces of Joseph’s life puzzle. Before I asked the next question, a friend, just a girl, sitting quietly at the end of the table, whispered, “Maybe I’m supposed to be learning something about God right now.”
Others began to nod their heads in tender agreement. Discussion quickly shifted to “What might God be teaching me right now while I’m here?”
Tears flowed as each one around our rickety, trembling table spoke.
“I’ve met Jesus since I came here.”
“I’m not wanting to sound so dramatic, but I believe I would be dead if I hadn’t been arrested.”
“My heart is learning to forgive some people who have hurt me deeply.”
“From the moment they led me in here, I’ve realized I can’t do this life on my own anymore. God is helping me every day.”
“I’ve never read the Bible, but since I’ve been here, I’m reading and getting such comfort from God’s words.”
We glanced at the tiny clock on the back wall; time had passed quickly. Prayer concerns included kids, family, parole hearings, attorney visits, and possible release dates. Prayers were offered, then words of appreciation. See you next time.
When I was exiting the jail that evening, God gently nudged my heart, “Yes, you’re just a girl— who is privileged to encourage others to know and love Me.”
My heart was filled with joy at the honor to open God’s Word in the midst of the jail as HE reminded me of HIS great love.