The jail room’s cold concrete walls surrounded me like a stone tomb. Women inmates stood in their tiny cell rooms behind metal doors. They stared at me through thick-glassed windows in the doors. They stared at me like animals in a cage waiting to get out.
Without warning, a loud clicking sound echoed throughout the room as each bolted door automatically unlocked. The women emerged from their cells like the walking dead. Some of them sat down in front of the television. Others used the pay telephones.
One inmate, with tangled bleached hair and a tattoo on her forearm, timidly approached my table. “Are you the church lady?”
“I’m a volunteer jail chaplain. Would you like to study the Bible?”
She nodded and sat across from me. Dull eyes, hollow cheeks, and two missing front teeth belied her age. I’d seen her withered face on dozens of women addicted to drugs.
We talked for a few minutes to break the ice. Then I opened my Bible to Mark 5:1-20 and read about a man possessed by demons. Although the townspeople tried to chain the man, he always broke free and ran around like a mad dog. He lived in the tombs of dead men. He gashed himself with stones.
But Jesus came to the man. He healed him, revealing God’s love and power.
I told the woman, “It’s the same unfathomable love that led Jesus to the cross to die for our sins. It’s the same incomparable power that raised Jesus from the dead, and gives us eternal life.”
Hope illuminated the woman’s face. We prayed. And by God’s love and power, this shackled woman became my sister in Christ.
Became like me, a sinner saved by grace.
“But because of His great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgression – it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4,5 NIV)