I was blessed with the opportunity to visit the prison here in Cahul today. This was eye opening. Moldovan prisons are nothing like American prisons. I’ve never been in an American prison, but I’ve seen documentary style film of what they are like. No pictures were allowed within the prison walls, so all I have to share are my memories of the event.
As we were waiting outside the door Pastor Anatol went in to let the administration know that we had arrived. He came out and said they did not want to let us in. We were the third group of the day to show up, and they were “caroled” out. After about ten minutes, he came back out and said for us to hurry, they were letting us in.
This prison is Soviet-era. The hallways are all very narrow, barely enough space to walk side by side with someone. Each room contains from one to eleven prisoners. We brought pens, envelopes, stamps, paper, and evangelistic information to share with them. There were some rooms of women, but mostly men. The guard would open one door at a time, and some of us would hand in the gifts while others continued singing Christmas carols in the hallway.
My introduction to ministry continued with this visit. Pastor Anatol asked me to address three separate groups with a Christmas message. The first group was a single room of prisoners (four). The second was one side of a buildings worth of prisoners as they looked out their open windows. The third was a bunk style room of what I’m assuming was prisoners that were less of a risk than the others.
As I gazed into that first open door, I thought about where my strength comes from. If I minister on my own strength, I’m in trouble. If my strength comes from the Lord and Him alone, He’ll use me in mighty ways to advance His kingdom. I’ve struggled some with public speaking lately, which is a large part of what a Pastor does. Over the last few days as I’ve taught, spoken, and preached, my strength has been in the Lord. When I realized it’s not about me, my mind has been at ease speaking.
I told these prisoners all the same thing. Jesus came to earth on a mission. He took on human flesh and dwelt among us. His mission was to die; a perfect sacrifice for my sins and the prisoners, if they truly repent of their sins, believe, and follow Him. There is nothing they could have done that Jesus won’t forgive them of. Nothing. That’s what I wanted them to hear.
When we got on the plane I had doubts about my purpose here in Moldova. It’s become clear to me in my first week and a half that I’m here to learn from Pastor Anatol, to learn how to be a Pastor. This guy legitimately loves Jesus and is out telling people about Him. Praise God for him and his ministry here in Cahul. The Lord is using this trip to show me where I need to be in the future.
As we were walking back through the halls to leave, the main guard who had been escorting us asked if we would carol through the administration wing of the prison. We said sure, and off we went. She went in front of us and opened all the office doors for the administrators to listen. We ended up in the warden’s office singing about the birth of our Savior. His family was there visiting him at work, so we were able to sing for them also.
It was funny how God prepared the way for us today. We went from thinking we weren’t even going into the prison to singing Christmas carols to the warden of the prison in his office.
Prayer Requests: 1. Pray for the prisoners we ministered to today. Pray that the Lord will call them to Himself, that they will repent, believe, and the Lord will change their lives. 2. Pray for Pastor Anatol and his ministry here in Cahul.
CHALLENGE for my Redeemer Church Family: I’m feeling convicted here based on how much this church is in motion. What I mean is that they are involved in various outreach efforts in the community, things that we could be doing in Fuquay Varina, NC. We could visit prisons, Christmas carol, and visit schools. I know by saying this I’m stepping forward to volunteer, and I’m okay with that.