I had the privilege recently to go on a ministry trip to Angola Prison in Louisiana. This is the only maximum security prison in Louisiana. Most of the men there have committed horrible crimes and many are serving life sentences. Several guys from Oakwood went to support a program developed by AWANA for the inmate dads that allows them to spend a fun day with their kids. The dads earn the right to participate in this event. Some complete a year long program also developed by AWANA called “Malachi Dads.” It is based on Malachi 4:6 which talks about the hearts of the fathers will turn toward their children and the hearts of the children will turn toward their fathers.
For many of these inmate dads, they had not seen their kids for a year or more. Some were seeing their kids for the first time. Many of us were “chaperones” for the fathers and kids. These dads and kids were able to enjoy many games and activities together. At one point, I looked to my left and saw what looked just like any carnival you would see at an elementary school.
Then I looked to my right and saw a ten foot high chain link fence with razor wire along the top. That is a hard set of pictures to match up.
It was wonderful to see the love and affection shown between most of the dads and kids. A few of the kids did not want to be there and showed it every way possible. For those dads who were trying to love on their kids, it was heart breaking to see that love rebuffed. At the end of the day when it was time for the kids to leave, the sight of several hundred dads hugging and praying for their kids was incredible. The inmate and young man I spent the day with prayed together and then wiped some tears away. After they prayed together, they came over to where I was standing and said they wanted to pray for me! What a sweet time of prayer with these guys and the Lord.
I can’t say it was a fun experience but I can say I saw and felt so much joy from being there. In talking with some of these men who are Christ-followers and being a part of a worship service Friday afternoon, they know the depth of their sin. They are reminded of it everyday. They also know the depths to which they have been forgiven by God. We sang “Your Grace Is Enough” and other songs we sing at Oakwood, but these guys know that God’s grace is enough! It has to be. I went expecting to minister to these guys but I learned more than I realized about the great grace of God.