Serving God While Incarcerated (Part 2)
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“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called” (Ephesians 4:1).
The word “incarcerated” tends to sometimes be misleading. We have become accustomed to hearing it used only in reference to jails or prisons, but in truth, this word covers more than that. Simply put, the word “incarcerated” means “to be confined.” So, you can not only be incarcerated or confined to a jail or prison, but you can also be incarcerated in a Drug Rehabilitation Facility, a Mental Health Facility, a Juvenile Detention Center, or Long-Term or Short-Term Residential Treatment Facilities. There are men, women, and children that are incarcerated/confined in facilities worldwide.
Being incarcerated is a troubling experience within itself, not to mention what it costs in terms of your freedom. But the often unanswered questions are: How does a person serve God while being incarcerated? How does a Christian stay in fellowship with GOD during difficult circumstances?
I am an ex-gang leader of the Athens Park Bloods out of Los Angeles, California and I used to love getting money by any and all means necessary. I am sure that some of my readers can understand where I am coming from, but there comes a time when you must understand that there is always someone or something bigger than you. In my case, it was the Lord. God has allowed me the opportunity to talk to the lil homies and tell them not to follow my past actions, and teach them to come together and put their trust in God. Because when Jesus calls you, you must answer. There is an important lesson here, because I’ve learned that fellowship with the right people is a must for God’s people.
The Importance Of Fellowship
“And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).
We get the knowledge of fellowship from the Greek word Koinonia (koy-nohn-ee’-ah) which means, “the share which one has in anything, a participation, fellowship recognized and enjoyed; thus, it is used of the common experiences and interests of Christians.” Fellowship is important for a fruitful spiritual life, because it’s all about relationship, and relationship is the foundation of love. Fellowship during our incarceration brings us together in love, even if we don’t have any family on the outside. Practicing fellowship while you are incarcerated will bring you the blessing of experiencing the love of God.
How To Start A Prayer Circle
“And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).
Starting a prayer circle isn’t difficult, in fact, it’s much simpler than it seems. Simply find an isolated spot in the pod where it is okay for a group of inmates to congregate and pray together without disturbance. Then, select a time when most of the pod/unit is back from their activities (work, school, recreation, etc.).
At that set time, call out “prayer call” to get the guys’ attention as a signal to let them know that prayer is about to begin. Naturally a lot of people in the pod will just look over at you momentarily—not quite getting what you’re doing—but don’t be discouraged if only one or two show up initially. If some don’t come, that’s okay. Pray anyway. If any come, then one at a time offer your prayer requests and praise reports of what God is doing in your life. Finally, pray out. We like using the prayer from Matthew 6:9-13, but feel free to be led by the Holy Spirit on how you end the prayer circle each night. Be consistent and faithful to call it each day. God blesses those who are faithful in small things.
How To Start A Pod/Unit Bible Study Group
“Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Philippians 2:2).
There is a significant spiritual difference between going to Church to hear your Pastor preach a sermon and being a part of a small Bible study group. Bible study is an intimate and interactive setting that makes learning the Word of GOD much easier to retain. Bible study allows us the beautiful opportunity to ask questions and receive answers about the Bible that we don’t understand. Congregational Church and Bible study both are extremely important to all Christians for spiritual growth, which is the reason why I believe that we should participate in both during our incarceration.
Here at my prison, we started a Bible study group in the housing unit that we live in and today I want to encourage you to do the same in the facility where you are.
Starting a Bible study group is simpler than it seems at first glance. First, link up with other Christians that live in your housing unit/pod and tell them of your plans to start a Bible study group. And please do not be discouraged if only 3 or 4 people want to be part of the newly formed group. In fact, Jesus said:
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).
So, it can be just you and one other person studying the Bible. Next, don’t allow fear to trick you into believing that you can’t start a Bible study group just because you are not a Preacher. Bible study is not about what you do know, but it’s about coming together and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us what we do not know. Then, as a group you all should collectively decide on which book in the Bible that you all want to study each week. I recommend starting at the beginning of the New Testament in the book of Matthew, because it’s important to learn as much as possible about the life, death, burial, and resurrection of JESUS Christ. Next, have everyone to read at least two chapters in their individual study, and select something out of those two chapters that touched them, or that they would like clarity on. Another suggestion would be to investigate certain topics like grace, faith, love, patience, etc. Then, come together one day out of each week in your housing unit/pod to discuss what you read. Open and close each Bible study group with a prayer and allow every participant in the group to discuss the two chapters they read. This process will allow the group to begin to open up to each other more and more. Finally, we learn from each other, no matter where we are in our spiritual walk. Be humble enough to recognize we don’t know everything about the Word … that’s why we study.
How To Start A Food Fellowship
“They, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart” (Acts 2:46).
What is a “Food Fellowship?” I am pretty sure that is what some of you are wondering after reading the above heading. A food fellowship is when you use food as common ground to bring a diverse group of people together. For example, you may have seen Churches offer free food to draw people of their community into their Church, or you may notice that at some job fairs they offer free food to draw in potential employees.
Here in our prison, we started a food fellowship in our pod to bring us together in a positive manner. We started with the 8 people that participate in our Bible study group, and we asked them if they were able and willing to donate some food from their commissary. After collecting donations, we calculated the amount of food needed to feed every inmate in our pod. Now you may not have enough donations to feed everyone a feast-size portion, but just focus on being a blessing to others and let GOD handle the rest. Then we set a date and time to cook and distribute the food. We also wrote out many Scriptures from the Bible and taped them to each food container that we passed out. Our goal was not only to feed them food, but also the word of GOD.
“…Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
How To Start A Game Incentive Fellowship
“GOD is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our LORD” (1 Corinthians 1:9).
Starting a game fellowship can seem difficult only because most people have their own set of friends. But, in order to catch flies, you’ll need honey. Here are a few tips to make it easy as possible for you to start a game incentive fellowship. First, sacrifice a little commissary and make a nice gift bag. You can do this by taking in donations, or you can fund it all yourself. The gift bags are the incentive for many people to participate that wouldn’t normally participate. Then, find games that are inclusive of everyone (race, age, etc.), and afford everyone the opportunity to participate. Finally, set a good timetable where everyone is in the pod/unit: preferably on the weekend.
“Your kindness will reward you” (Proverbs 11:17).
My heavenly Father, I come to you today to say thank you for not abandoning me during my incarceration. God, I ask for forgiveness of all my short comings and wrong doings. Thank you for all your blessings, but most of all thank you for showing me how to fellowship with others. I pray that we continue coming together during our incarceration and that your Word leads and guides us. May our fellowship together draw others unto you. Please teach, lead, and guide us every single day. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.