In Prison – Divine Appointments with God

Once a week from fall of 2015 through spring of 2016, a few of us “outside brothers” drove to prison. Logan McClish, Matt Garver, Joshua Fickle, and me. A unanimous conviction brought us together and it’s why we end up behind bars every Tuesday night. It’s why we’re brother-bound to the convicted men of 15802 State Route 104.

Prison isn’t pretty, but there’s a haunted majesty hovering the 72 acres of CCI. Maybe it’s the 132 inmates on death row. Or the 2800 blue outfits on the yard. Maybe it’s because I see our prison in the stone-cold likeness of Shawshank, a film shot at the Ohio State Reformatory.

After stripping our belts, coats and shoes, we’re stamped with invisible ink. A few ID checks and ink scans later we trek across the Horizon campus and up to the dormitory where 72 offenders live.

By the end of the 10 month program, walking into the dorm is a parade of salutes, handshakes, and hugs. You don’t get past a phone booth or a blur of blue outfits without a friendly nod or a clap on the back. The fraternal spirits contrast the chin-checking, don’t-mess-with-me life on the other side. We huddle in small groups. Share tears, laughter, heartaches and fears. Month after month of doing this, we have become friends. Back through the security hoops and back to Columbus.

So why do I meet these men in prison every week? Because Jesus met me in mine. He got to me where no one else could, past the razor-wire to commune with my profane, death-sentenced soul. Then he caught my case, stole my prison blues and became convicted. I put him on death row to die, and I walked free.

Another reason: friendship with prisoners is fellowship with Jesus.

And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 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.’ (Matthew 25:39-40, ESV)
Going to prison is a divine appointment with God. Those wanting to know Him better will at some point in their lives start a relationship with an inmate. Are we so high and mighty that we can’t rub shoulders with criminals? The gospel is exactly the thing for machismo driven exercise yards, rape loaded showers, gang violence, frozen hearts, and death sentences. It sets men free.

Derek Nicol

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