Mary Mortenson, Pamela Deacon-Joyner, Prison Congregations of America (1)
With Watery Eyes
Mar 15, 2017
By Mark Juhl, PCA supporter and volunteer for the reentry program at The Church of the Damascus Road in Fort Dodge, IA
With my eyes watering, I gave a hug to Brian and then another hug to Paul. This was the scene at a workshop being held at the Western Iowa Synod Assembly last year. The workshop was giving information about the Church of the Damascus Road, a two point Prison Congregation in Fort Dodge and Rockwell City, and Brian and Paul had just finished giving their testimonies. My watery eyes were in response to the blessing that I had received from them by being a part of their lives, and by witnessing up close the transforming power of God. I am not speaking only about the transforming power that God did in their lives; but, also in mine. I am not sure of the genuine definition of Christian Fellowship, but somehow I feel it has to do with working together with others of our faith, so that we might together grow in the Spirit and strengthen our faith though that sharing and fellowship. This, to me, is what happened during my journey with Brian and Paul and many other former inmates.
It was at just such a workshop where I had heard similar testimonies from two other former inmates about 15 years earlier, and it had been their testimonies that first got me interested in becoming involved with the Church of the Damascus Road.
I suppose, like most individuals who have not served any time, when I first became involved it was with the attitude that I would be bringing something into the lives of the inmates and that somehow, my involvement would translate into a blessing for them. I do believe that is partially true, but what I know is true are the blessings that I have received through my involvement. The friendships and the vision of the Spirit working in the lives of both Brian and Paul and others have reignited the Spirit within me. I have received a far greater spiritual blessing than what I gave.
I am a farmer and as we again approach spring, I think of how spring represents a time for a fresh start, a new beginning after a long winter. Brian and Paul and many others who have been on the inside have come out of their winter, and partly because of the seeds that took sprout while they were inmates, have been able to come out with a fresh start and with a chance for a new beginning. But as any farmer knows, the harvest doesn’t just depend on the seeds that were planted, but also on applying enough fertilizer and suppressing the weeds that are sure to come up. When done right, and with the help of the good Lord’s sunshine and rain, when the harvest comes we will have a GOOD crop and we will be the ones who are blessed. So like the farmer in Jesus’s parable (Matthew 13) that scatters seed, we will see some that don’t take root and some that do, but the roots do not go deep enough or are choked out. We will also see some that will produce up to 100 times what was planted. We have only a small part in what the harvest is and not all will produce, but we are truly blessed by those who do and we need to remember that we too are a part of the harvest that someone else planted.
So when I get to meet Jesus, face to face, I suspect that both he and I will have watery eyes as we hug.