Safety in the Prison Chapel
Sometimes I get to walk the prison ranges to visit through the bars of an inmate's cell or visit in the prison hospital or in a private counselling room but the majority of our encounters with inmates happen in the chapel area of each institution.
Inmates have recently shared with me how the chapel environment in prison has been a place of blessing to them. I assumed they were going to speak appreciatively about hearing the life changing message of the gospel. But it was one particular man who told me he was able to relax and let down his guard, not to have to keep “the eyes in the back of his head open” (with constant awareness of his surroundings). Another one expressed that the positive, respectful and safe atmosphere is what draws him to attend.
In prison there is much that makes life stressful: inmates taking advantage of other inmates for food or personal items, emotional outbursts of verbal and even physical harm, ongoing condemnation from staff and management, the list goes on.
We have sometimes been discouraged when we notice that some men attending chapel services or programs fall asleep. But we have come to understand that the chapel is a safe place and so for some men they can relax, drop their guard a bit and not have to be on “high alert” (enough to doze off for 40 winks!).
The prison climate is not static; it varies as populations change. One or two obnoxious men coming onto a range can change a somewhat civil environment to one of terror and intimidation.
The Assessment Unit where inmates start their federal sentence is an ever changing population where stress levels run high. Last week there was a murder on one of the ranges at this Assessment Unit. An inmate’s throat was slashed. These are horrific realities related to prison life sending incredible fear and anxiety into so many of the men who are not violently inclined or where their lifestyle was never one of violence and aggression. How desperately the message of the gospel is needed!
So when we see men sleeping during programs in this particular institution we now understand the possible back story to their situation. Our earnest prayer is that they will come to find true spiritual safety in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
Pray for each of the chapel services, Bible studies and other programs in chapel institutions. This is one place where inmates can come and feel relatively safe and most importantly can hear God’s message of love and forgiveness.
Pray for the safety of all inmates. Pray for Christian inmates as they seek to grow and be a witness of their new faith in this difficult environment.
And please continue to pray for us as we enter these tense conflict-prone environments. What a privilege to speak the life giving message of peace and hope. By God’s grace each of these men can know the forgiveness of sin and be over comers.
Thank you for taking the time to read this update and we would love to hear from you as well!
Robert and Susan