Monday, March 29, 2010
Syncopated voices vibrated in the sterile room of the third level of the Los Angeles Women's Jail. It was one of those feelings we all have felt: What did I get myself into?! Shaved heads, tattoos climbing up necks and onto soft feminine faces displaying 'hoods they were from. Loud voices taunting and jesting with each other confused me in the way you would feel on foreign soil; you know what their saying but you can't understand the words.
I clutched my bible and inmates yelled through walls or shouted through windows, Pray for me! My name is Channel and I'm up for parole soon! And, Hey you! My baby's daddy is in court tomorrow. Would you remember to say a prayer for him? I had no clue what I'd gotten myself into.
In my naivete I assumed this would be another speaking event with willing women's heart open to hear the gospel. I didn't expect to be fearful. I didn't expect to be afraid. I didn't expect to pray in the solitude of my mind feverishly for the right words to say. But the fears washed away as a simple guitar lead us into a time of worship.
Brown, black, white. Straight, lesbian, confused. Searchers, seekers, finders.
In one room we sang off beat and out of key to songs I will never forget. The words sung out by the lips of the women gathered in ward 304 dripped with sincerity. Lyrics, sung out with every fiber of their being, meant something more than mere words. It was one of the most moving times of worship I've ever experienced.
I swallowed the lump in my throat as I walked towards the microphone. After getting comfortable with each other, we laughed together, learned together, and felt like a rowdy, motley crew of girls who needed some Jesus up in our lives.
Before leaving I had the privilege of praying with a dear sister who was sentenced to death row that very day. It was in that moment I realized she represented so many women who, though have freedom in the outside world, are prisoners to themselves.
As we go about our day, remember those who are living in an emotional, psychological, or physical prison and give them the One who proclaimed, The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of our Lord's favor and the day of vengeance of our God to comfort all who mourn... (Isaiah 61:1-2)