loren Eric Swanson: Going to Jail

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Going to Jail

Monday I spent a couple of hours with my friend Rick Murphy (on right at our Christmas Eve open house) who is chaplain at a local 1500 person jail facility. Rick greeted me in the reception area and soon we were in the middle of the complex walking down shining tile floors and Rick was introducing me to guards and minimum security inmates. The jail is broken down into 4-5 different wings and each wing has 6 pods, consisting of a bay (open space that has tables, a TV, and beds on the floor for prisoners who don't have cells). Prisoners where different colors of horizontally striped uniforms that differentiate their security level--green for "trustee" all the way to red, for maximum security.

It was time for church so Rick gave the signal to the guards behind the dark glass to open pod 1. He stepped in and announced that church was starting and men started lining up at the door. Each one had to show his ID at the door, Rick greeted each one by name, recorded each name, checked that name against his master list, then said, "You're good to go buddy" and each man went to the ad hoc chapel. Just getting the men from each of the 6 pods took 20 minutes or so.

So, what is church like in jail? It was pretty amazing. As I entered, 18 men were sitting quietly, listening to worship music that was playing on a small boom box. Rick welcomed everyone with a huge smile and told them how privileged he was to be with them. A single sheet of music was passed out and the fellas sang out "The Light of That City" along with the Brooklyn Tabernacle.

In this house we've built of make believe

Loved ones go long before, seems it's time to leave

But we will learn how to grieve, to forgive and receive'

Till we see them there in that city

Span of stars overhead as we walk this road

While this darkness remains, I will bear your load

And together we will tend the seed He's sown

As we walk along the road to that city


On that day we will sing "Holy, Holy"

On that day we'll bow down in the light

And then we'll rise and turn our eyes

To the Lord, Jesus Christ, on that day

Though my eyes can't see what is waiting there

Though my mind can't conceive all that He's prepared

There the blind will see the sun, what was old will be young

And the lame, they will run all over the streets of that city


On that day we will sing "Holy, Holy"

On that day we'll bow down in the light

And then we'll rise and turn our eyes

To the Lord, Jesus Christ, on that day

It was powerful. One thing I noticed. If you look around in church, most guys don't sing. In this jail all but a couple were belting out the lyrics.

Rick asked if anyone had anything to share. Ricky stood up and said that he had come to Christ in September here in jail and he had started a prayer meeting in his pod that week and several were joining him. Another shared about a buddy getting out in time to care for his mother. Rick encouraged the men, "even if you've been a Christian for a couple of minutes" to share the love of Jesus with others.

Rick had prepared a message of hope that day...as he does for every service. Every eye was glued on Rick. Rick frequently told of his own shortcomings and foibles. God was touching lives. Jail seems to be one of those "thin places" the Celts speak of, where Jesus shows up in a special way and he was showing up on that day. The service closed in prayer and with hope and expectation the inmates returned to their pods.

Rick took me around. "There are a bunch of folks I want you to meet." And we met guards and inmates. Lives were being changed.

When Rick and I were with Campus Crusade, Rick was one of the directors I supervised, before he left Crusade to be a church planter. I've seen Rick speaking and leading many times. His heart beats for people to come to faith in Christ and watching him made me think of how good God is to give him such a platform for loving and sharing the gospel.


At Saturday, January 12, 2008 8:12:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Eric,
May the lord bless you aboundantly. I am trying to reach my dear friend Rick Murphy from UNM Campus Crusades ( 1984 - 88). Please let him know that Ife Sofola is trying to to get a hold of him. He can reach me at ifesofola@yahoo.com. Thanks so much.

At Thursday, March 13, 2008 5:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Eric:

My name is Terrie. I will be leaving to turn myself in on Tues. for a petite theft charge for 90 days. I am petrified. I have to stop taking my medication (Xanaxz) which they will ween me off in medical. But my most fear is what to say to my children? How do I leave them mentally and physically?
My email is sanderbeck@cox.net

They know I will be leaving them on Tues. My husband (who works nights) and my mother and a couple nannies (I need the super nanny) are getting together from church to help. How can I say goodbye the morning they leave for school and I go to court and then jail? any questions or comments?

Please help my brain, keep our family in your prayers and a headge of protection around them.

Thank you,

Terrie Sanderbeck

P.S. I will be a the Marion County Jail in Ocala, FL. if you would like to write because Jesus is Lord. I pray for strength, wisdom, and knowledge. I am 37 yrs. old


Post a Comment

<< Home