Blessing the “Yes”

Three years ago our couples’ Friday night Bible study tossed around missions ideas we might do together. From the comfort of our college-educated, suburban lives we made logical suggestions—the homeless shelter, tutoring, a food pantry or Habitat for Humanity—but we rejected them all. As our minds searched for new ideas, someone said, “What about prison?”

No one said “no.” In fact no one said anything. We sat stunned and silent. Seconds clicked by and God stepped in. We agreed in unison, “Yes! Prison ministry.”

Moments later I wondered, “What have we done?”

None of us brought a single qualification to prison ministry yet we pursued the idea anyway. Through several “coincidences” God led us to a local prison ministry that ran a weekly worship service. To our surprise its leaders welcomed us, and within a couple months we made our first visit to a maximum security men’s prison.

We weaved our way down the institutional hallways, deeper into the prison, to the chapel.

The service was nothing like I expected or had ever experienced. The inmates who attended were friendly and polite, not scary or threatening. And the service was loud, joyful, spirit-filled and uplifting. Today the prison chapel is my favorite place to worship.

Yet I still struggle to find my place in the ministry. The little voice inside reminds me I don’t belong. First of all I’m a woman—a bit out of place in a men’s prison. My life story doesn’t resemble the harsh realities the men have faced, so I can’t relate to their specific struggles. Plus, I don’t lead worship or sing or play an instrument.

My sensible side adds up the facts and says, “leave.”

But God says, “stay.”

 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (1 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)

And in the staying He has blessed me far more than I’ve blessed those I set out to serve. God has given me courage to confront my fear of public speaking to share openly and honestly with the men. He’s opened the inmates’ hearts to accept me and our group. Through these men God has shown me what a life transformed by the gospel looks like. And He has shown me in startling detail what Jesus’ offer of grace really looks like.

Through my “yes” I realize that I’m the one being ministered to and being transformed. The others from our core group say the same thing. And as a result of our faithful service, our church is being transformed as well.

Many from our congregation have come to the weekly prison services, including our pastor and worship leaders. They all leave overwhelmed, amazed . . . and different. In reality, the inmates are teaching our church how to worship more freely and passionately. They’re showing us what utter brokenness looks like when put in the hands of Jesus. And they are teaching us to love those we thought were unlovable.

God ignited a fire in our church for the prisoners and now our church is an integral partner with the ministry. All because one night, three years ago we said, “yes” to a crazy idea. A crazy idea, but a God idea.

Our Savior is clearly at work, guiding the prison ministry to a greater calling. In the process he has woven a mish-mash team of the most unlikely partners—ex-cons and soccer moms, addicts and accountants, street-savvies and suburbanites—into a beautiful fellowship. Held together by the crimson thread of Jesus’s blood.

When I go into the prison, I go with one qualification—I’m a sinner saved by grace. I offer my “yes” and I have faith God will do the rest.

Kelli Regan

I’m an ordinary girl in love with an awesome God. In my quest for adventure outside the everyday I've experienced God in remarkable ways…and in remarkable places. Together we’ve trekked inside the walls of a maximum security men’s prison, to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, into post-earthquake Haiti, into the hearts of beautiful brothers and sisters in Christ and so much more. God’s blessed me with my lifetime traveling companion, my husband Dan, and our two children, aka adventurers-in-training. I share insights into my adventures both big and small. I hope they shine the light of God's awesomeness into your life and spark a desire to venture into life outside the ordinary.

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10 Comments

  1. What a courageous step of obedience, Kelli. My dad does prison ministry and I know it can be hard. Thanks for saying, YES.

    Fondly,
    Glenda

    Reply
  2. Kelli–Thanks for this post!

    I love the willingness of your group to get out of their comfort zones and go minister where God was calling them. A good reminder to all of us that God calls us to GO too! And He does bless the “yes!”

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  3. Hi Kelli…I am speechless,all I can say is wow. Thank you for allowing Jesus to use you in such a beautiful way, much love to you…

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  4. Very courageous. I bet God is smiling at your obedience! I can relate to your overwhelming experience in the worship service. I have attended a church in an extremely poor country. People seem to truly go all out when all they have and all they want is Jesus.

    God Bless!
    Candice
    mylovefromhome.blogspot.com

    Reply
  5. Wow Kelli,

    I am so inspired. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with me. Amazing

    Reply
  6. I remember when I first read about your prison ministry–how awed I was. I think this is such a great example of how saying yest to God breaks down our expectations and blesses in a big way. So inspiring, Kelli.

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  7. It amazes me every time I hear about the prison ministry. I never would have thought it could be so moving. But I see the look in everyone’s eyes who have done it and I see something that takes my breath away. Thank you Kelly for saying yes.

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  8. Hi Kelli, you took a risk and went totally against your grain ! You humbled yourself accepting His guidance and now have a life-changing experience that has enabled you to not only change those in need but face your fear of public speaking at the same time. What a gift you have been given !

    God Bless….

    Reply
  9. “what utter brokenness looks like when we put our hands in Jesus'” – simply beautiful – totally powerful! Not “Say Yes to the Dress” (which I love more than I should but probably because I live in a house full of boys” – but “Say Yes to Jesus and Immesh yourself in His Plan.”

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  10. “And in the staying he has blessed me far more than I’ve blessed those I set out to serve.”

    Oh mercy days, I could say the very same thing about my journey through cancer. Oh the times I’ve felt so inadequate in that “prison”–to offer anything more than cookies, smiles, and a few words of comfort. Cancer, and the people therein, have taught me so very much about life. I’m only now beginning to unwrap the weightiness of it all; it has been God’s very good and gracious gift to me.

    Excellent words, spoken from the heart. I love your “prision” ministry. It extends beyond those walls to become ministry to us as well.

    peace~elaine

    Reply

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