Coffee Creek! Sort of brings to mind a lazy flowing stream, doesn't it? Actually, Coffee Creek is a women's prison in Wilsonville, OR., and all female offenders in the state are housed within its walls. A few years ago, I was asked to go there with some Christian women who desired to start a post-abortion ministry for the prisoners who were interested.
Except for the signs posted around, from the parking lot, there is little evidence that the facility is a prison. However, once inside the doors there is no doubt you've entered a different world. From body scanners to armed personnel, the evidence of incarceration is immediate.
After hearing a heavy door close behind me, all my senses were brought to a hyper level of awareness. The sights, sounds and smells invaded my consciousness and I felt a spiritual heaviness all around me. I began to pray.
After several long hallways and more heavy doors, we entered the chapel. It was filled with about two dozen women of various ages and ethnic backgrounds, each dressed in identical uniforms. All the women were part of an on-going Christian fellowship and Bible study group.
As we began to worship, the heaviness I'd felt upon entering lifted and the sweetness of God's presence filled every inch of space. While sitting in the back, I began looking around at the inmates and the "others" like me. I sat up a little straighter as I became aware of a profound truth... except for our clothing, the women on the "inside" were exactly the same as those from the "outside."
Whatever circumstances had brought these women here, they no longer mattered in the reality of God's grace. It was the same for me! Once I entered into a personal relationship with the Lord God of the Universe, I was free from my past. Now, in this church, we could all come together in that freedom and celebrate the reality of God's mercy. "If any man be in Christ, he has become a new creation, old things have passed away, behold everything has become new in HIM." Never had that truth been more evident to me than in that moment. Surrounded by steel bars, locked doors and armed security every single person in that place was FREE.
- ▼ 2012 (5)