In the hallways of Century Regional Detention Center, the largest Women's County Jail in the United States, exists a small enclave of four modules labeled as High Power, known to many simply as 2100. Within the walls of these four modules are women who have been accused of or have committed crimes that are worthy of being separated from the majority of the inmates in general population.
A Place Where...
2100 is where I first played worship outside of the walls of my own home. A place where God revealed to me that His plans for me are so much bigger than my own; And that walking in obedience never requires talent, but simply willingness.
A place where God showed me that I could be used, if only I am willing to come to Him as an empty vessel.
A place where I learned that man's ways are not God's ways. That He can do things, even in our own day in age, that we could not ever seek to fathom or understand. "I will make a road in the wilderness," He said in Isaiah 43:19b, "and rivers in the desert."
A place where I learned that God CAN, even when I cannot.
A place where I learned that He is truly alive!
Within the walls of 2100 I met an inmate who had been in High Power for over 7 years. For over 7 years she had been confined to a small module inside an even smaller cell. Only allowed outside of her cell one hour per day, not outside to a yard, but restricted to movement inside the module. To take a shower, to stretch, to function in somewhere other than a jail cell. I often think of these women and wonder how they survive for such long periods of time without exposure to the sun and fresh air. With limited exposure to the human touch and face to face conversation.
I can recall short conversations with an inmate on the lower tier of one of these four modules. They would be short conversations, always in passing, but always about the things of the Lord. Then I began to hear from the Senior Chaplain words of encouragement from an inmate located in 2100. This particular inmate wanted my husband and I to know that she was praying for us. We were humbled. I began to wonder about this person that was seeking God on our behalf and I too began to pray for her. In the Summer of 2014 the Senior Chaplain had relayed a message to me from this inmate. She had a dream that I was speaking at a women's conference. She wanted me to know that she was praying for me. Little did she know it was the desire of my heart. In September of that same year the Lord revealed to me that I would be given a chance to speak at a women's conference behind the walls of Chino State Prison. I must confess, no one knew of what the Lord was about to do. In fact, not even the group who had organized the event. Due to last minute changes and one of the speakers not being cleared to enter the facility I was given a chance to speak. It was one of the most powerful messages I have ever uttered. It was nothing of me, but all of God.
Through this woman God gave me hope. Hope that the work of the Lord is never done in vain. That the preaching of the Gospel and the laboring for souls does not always fall on deaf ears. That even in this day and age people can be saved. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Through this woman God taught me that He is very much still alive and working. Not only can men be saved, but they can be transformed. "BUT YOU," as the Apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesian Church, "were once dead in your trespasses and sin." (Ephesians 2:1) And yet the Scripture continues on with an even greater exhortation...
"BUT GOD, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)" Ephesians 2:4-5
What a momentous declaration this is! The contrast that we see in the statement "BUT YOU" versus that which we see in these two small words.... "BUT GOD". What we see is a changed life. One redeemed from their sins. One who has been given a second chance at life. One which has been made whole and knew again. Just as the Scripture so beautifully proclaims, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (1 Corinthians 5:17). A life, a soul, a human being who has been reconciled to God. This gift of salvation. This gift of grace and mercy. This gift of eternal life. This gift of love. This gift of a redeemed and regenerated life that can only truly be understood when you are able to see it with your own eyes. Experience it in your own heart. Now I understand why Paul so admittedly professed to the Church of Corinth, "Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (1 Corinthians 5:20-21)
Because of this woman in 2100, this redeemed and reconciled life I met behind the walls of High Power, in a cell about the size of my restroom; Because of her I now understand why God's message burns so heavily in my heart! He is alive! He is truly alive! He can take even the most wretched of sinners, like me, and make a man whole again. And THIS is why we labor for the Gospel. Not because they are vain words needing to convince man of an empty message, BUT because they are living words that can revive a man's soul. Give a man a second chance at life, more so, grant a man the gift of eternal life. THIS is why we need to take serious the calling of God upon our lives as ambassadors. We have been called to be men that are willing to plead and implore to the lost on our hands and knees, not only as representatives of Christ, but as Christ Himself is speaking through us: TO BE RECONCILED TO GOD. To be saved. To be healed. To be transformed. To be given a chance to live and breath apart from the confines of Satan himself.
Behind the walls of a Century Regional Detention Center, the largest women's jail in the United States, in the heart of Lynwood, California, in High Power, where most would consider exists women that could never be saved or transformed I met a woman of God. One who has learned what it means to walk with the Lord even while in chains. Through this woman God has taught me the power of prayer and the power of His Word. And because of this woman, two small but powerful words will forever be burned in my soul...BUT GOD....
There is no end to what can exist after those two small words.
A transformed life.
A reconciled marriage.
A body raised from the dead.
A healed soul.
A mountain moved.
Never forget, where there is darkness, dead ends, and endless chasms lies these two words...BUT GOD... there is no end to His power. No end to His love.
"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.." (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Burn the ships! We're not going back! Leaving an eternal mark on this world, one calle at a time.