Cook County Jail (Chicago) is reportedly the largest single site county jail in the U.S..Some 10,000 inmates and just over 10,000 law enforcement and civilians staff this institution. For a number of years our church (JPUSA) sent several staff chaplains, full and part-time, to the jail. As time went on the political climate became such that between elements of corruption and a couple of people who enjoyed a hampering of the Gospel finally brought us to end our service to inmates there.
Several folks here at JPUSA have continued writing prisoners and sending music and other items to inmates through the years, that’s been an important service to many as well.
REZ Band played at Cook Co. Jail a number of times, and quite a few inmates made commitments of faith to Jesus, some eventually moving into our Christian community and serving alongside us after their release from the prison system.Last night I was blessed to act on an invitation from a group from Willow Creek Community Church who have brought a Monday evening church service to one of the divisions (where largely drug charges are the reason these men are locked up) for some fourteen years. Our Willow friends are good people and truly care that those they are able to reach with the love and reality of Jesus would come to both know and walk with Him… and never return once they’ve been released. I was asked to bring the music and also a message to the men, and was really blessed to be able to interact with them in prayer and a bit of chat after. What I want to say here is that all too few believers consider Jesus’ words in Matthew chapter twenty-five where He says “I was in prison and you came to me” and clarifies “As you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to me”. Myself and a number of others at JPUSA have visited and ministered in jails and prisons off and on for years. There are any number of reasons why so few of us do, and why in my own case I don’t do it all that often. But once again last night I saw the compassion of Jesus offered to people in deep need of it- and in need of a life-changing and re-directing encounter with the Lord that in part comes when the people of God reach out and give. Time, money, relationship-building, prayer, careful planning and simply “being there” means a great deal to those behind bars. So many Christians simply turn their backs and figure inmates are only reaping what they’ve sown and let law enforcement take care of such undesirables, end of story. And then the Lord’s words come to us- “and you visited me (or “came to me”) in that lock-up situation. I suppose there are as many reasons people get incarcerated as there are reasons God’s people ignore them. I am so thankful that last night I was able to participate with another group of people who have not ignored them. Those in jail or prison are some one’s dad, mom, sister, brother. They are people with sin (just like you and I) and people who need grace and solid but loving injections of the truth about God and the HOW of change for the better via faith in Jesus and His Word. Perhaps God is calling you to bring it to one or more of them in a place near where you live? Thanks to my friends from Willow who do more than consider them… but act on God’s call! Thanks for stopping by. -Glenn