I take Kingswood students to do chapel at prison once a month on Tuesday nights. Last night was one of those nights. It was a great night, but as is often the case, it didn’t start that way. It started with a message from the prison chaplain saying that the prison had been closed to outsiders, so we couldn’t come. I had a team ready and didn’t want to waste a night, so I called the chaplain at a connected minimum security facility to see if we could do chapel there. He said yes, so we loaded everyone into a van and off we went.
The chapel service at the minimum security facility went fine, but in an ordinary kind of way. In the van I had told the students that when plans change suddenly it may be for a reason that we only find out after the fact. During the prayer/one on one time after the chapel service I talked to an inmate that I will call Joe. Joe was actually getting out of the facility the next day. God had made quite a change in Joe’s life, and he told me that he had prayed that he would see Kingswood in chapel one last time before he left and went home to another province. I told him: ” Joe, God might have rearranged our whole schedule just to answer that prayer.” He was pretty pumped about that, and I was feeling pretty good too. But it gets better. The chaplain of the minimum security facility told me that they had just lifted the lockdown at the other prison, and that they wanted us to come over and do chapel there too. So off we went to go through security screening again and see what else the Lord was up to.
By the time we got processed through the other gate, all the prisoners were waiting in the chapel. A sense of expectancy seemed to be in the air, and as soon as we began worshipping all heaven broke loose. I have never heard the inmates sing so loud and with such abandon. On the outside, women make up the majority of people in most congregations. And church men often seem hesitant to lift their voices. There is something powerful about hearing so many rough male voices singing praises to Jesus. I could tell no one wanted to stop singing. We had crossed the line from another chapel service to a full-on Jesus party!
After we finally stopped singing we moved into a time of one on one ministry. As I looked around the room all 14 Kingswood students I had with me were engaged in earnest conversation and prayer with an inmate. One man told our worship leader that the atmosphere was so charged with the Holy Spirit that he had decided to become a Christian during the worship. He said ” I have been resisting God for a long time. I knew what I had to do, so I did it.” Another student told an inmate to think seriously about giving his life to Christ, and they could talk about it when she came back next month. He left the room for several minutes, but then came back into the chapel and walked up to her and said: ” No, I think I am ready to do this right now.” He bowed his head as she lead him in a prayer to invite Christ into his life. When the Spirit is moving, there is an effortlessness to ministry that is hard to put into words. It was like our Holy Spirit Double-Header went into sudden life overtime and the Kingdom of God won.
In the van on the way back to Kingswood, we shared what God had done not only for the inmates, but for us as well. When the Spirit moves in power it is so life-giving, and all you want is more of God. We were all a little giddy. I’m sure if we had gotten pulled over, the officer might have thought that some of us were intoxicated…and in a way we were. We had been drinking in the Spirit all night long, and were definitely under His influence.
So here is to a God who is as powerful in the jail-house as He is in the church-house. A God who can changes schedules, atmospheres, and lives. A God who can take a physical lockdown and turn it into a spiritual breakthrough.