"Chaplain, please pray for me. I'm on my 20th day without food!"
Amanda's plea got my attention. We were at Denver Women's Correctional Facility. Amanda was a regular at my weekly worship services and a student of TUMI (The Urban Ministry Institute), an intensive theological training course offered by Prison Fellowship® in conjunction with World Impact.
"Twenty days without food! What's going on, my friend?" I asked. Was it a sickness or something else that held Amanda captive?
The young woman smiled and began to tell me of a "movement" happening within her unit—one unlike I had ever heard of before at a prison.
'WE WANT TO SEE GOD MOVE'
Twenty women incarcerated at the correctional facility had decided to pray and fast for 40 days, hoping to see God move powerfully there. I had participated in such a fast before when I served as an overseas missionary, but I had never heard of such a thing happening in a prison. I asked if the movement had been inspired by one of the prison chaplains.
"No," Amanda said. "It was just a bunch of us on my unit who decided we really want to see God move in this place. A bunch of us had been praying separately for God to move in our lives and around us. And one day we all decided to pray together. And that just started something inside of us."
Amanda shared that they had already begun to see results. Fellow prisoners had started inquiring about Jesus and what the Christian prisoners were doing.
A HOLY MOVEMENT
As I listened to Amanda, I realized a change was happening in that facility—one I and other Christian volunteers had been praying for over the years. It was a holy movement not unlike the historical ones I'd read about. Amanda explained that she and her peers were more alert than ever before to what God was doing "behind the scenes."
"Maybe we're just more attentive to what God has been doing all along," she said, "but we really can see some movement by God in this place."
THE TRANSFORMATION NATION
As Amanda and I prayed together that night, I thanked God for His powerful movement of love, drawing His daughters to Himself. It was as if a lightbulb went on, alerting me to the fact that our prayers and efforts had not gone unnoticed. God was transforming lives and changing the culture within those prison walls! Amanda and her friends were indeed held captive, but not by something negative. They had become, as Paul often described in the Scriptures, bound to the living God.
What we were seeing in this prison is the very thing many pastors are praying for within their churches in this country. We are beginning to see a change. The "Incarceration Nation" is becoming the "Transformation Nation." A new type of missionary is being born behind bars!
ABOUT MARY ELLEN
Mary Ellen Armbruster is the Colorado and Wyoming field director for Prison Fellowship.