Prison Ministry Experience by Michael Hong

Christian D. and I had the privilege to worship the Lord at the NJ state Maximum Security prison in Rahway NJ last Sunday.  I cannot express in words the quality of worship that the these men behind bars were enjoying.  There was real joy and laughter in this church.  The Holy spirit was anointing them/us at this place.  Brothers of metro,  let us learn how to worship from these marginalized men.  I have documented our experience last weekend.  I pray that this will be a blessing to you all and ultimately our church.

It was 5:50 pm as Christian, Ulisse and I left Dunkin Donuts to cross into the town or Rahway NJ.  As we approached a large parking lot fenced out with miles of rusted barbed wire, Ulisse pointed to a newer building  that was separate from the main prison.  He said, “That’s the new building for the sex offenders, It is detached from the main prison for their own protection.”.  I though…just like in the movies.

We left all of our belongings in the car and just took our IDs.  Prior to coming here, we were instructed to NOT wear any colors blue, red and never wear any khakis.  The first 2 colors may get you killed and the khakis will make you blend in with the inmates.

Soon we met the Chaplin Larry Atkins. Energetic, smart with a deep love for the work that the Lord has given him. Quickly he gave us some advice on what to expect and what the inmates are expecting from us.  He also gave us some testimony about a recent saved OG (Original Gangster) that was trying to kill him once a time and how God used this hate that turned into respect and ultimately a baptism by water and the Holy Spirit.

The first thing that I could think of is how can we document this,  how can we bottle this up and share it with the world…

There were series of doors, airport body scanners, a pat down, UV stamp etc and we were in.  We walked through a court yard into an empty sanctuary.  Ulisse told me that the men are in the mess hall and will be arriving at the appointed time.  Soon the men came in, all at once.  We greeted them at the door. I noticed that they were all smiling and praising God.  They all shook our hands and street hugged us, as they are accustomed to doing,  praising the name of God.  To me, the faces reminded me of angels.  Later, Christian told me that he saw the face of Jesus in these brothers.

The choir huddled behind me to practice and soon shuffled on to the stage.  The ushers came and greeted me and thanked me for coming to worship with them.  I was glad that there were huge guys since I was told that they were also our body guards (to the death)  least something happens during worship. One usher was formerly from the Crips and killed 6 men as they resembled the murderer of his twin sister.  He recently  found out that the murderer was in the same prison, same sanctuary worshiping with him side by side.  Though his friends begged him to kill for revenge, he denied them as Jesus forgave his sins and he forgave the murder’s sins.  The murderer was immediately transferred for his safty.  Praise God… I know that only the Holy Spirit can manage this change.

“Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!” X10 exclaimed the 350 pound be-speckled worship leader with the voice of an angel… off we went to paradise.  I thought, this is how we should worship.  With fervor, desperation and gladness, joy and love, these brothers, captive in a maximum security prison rocked the house.

During the fiery sermon, I asked Ulisse, how the brothers can recite so many verses like my iPad as the preacher referenced all throughout the bible?  He said all they have is time.  It was still impressive that they were able to finish verbatim  the quoted scripture that the preacher started to read, in King James nonetheless.

The Holy Spirit was active and present in our mist. From the beginning to the end we saw heaven.  Authentic and deeply significant.

When we were leaving, The Chaplin reminded us that some of these prisoners are released back into society.  He expressed that the real problem was that the church on the outside really never accepts them.  I wondered about our church.  He also said that there are not enough outside receiving programs for them to re-adjust back into society.

Brothers,  If you want to know more and want to be involved,  I guarantee you that you will be transformed.  You can contact me at nylonpunk@gmail.com

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