I have just returned from a visit to Columbia Correctional Institution. It is a maximum-security prison near Madison, Wis. This was where serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was interred. The men convicted of serious crimes in Wisconsin will serve life sentences here (though they will likely move about from facility to facility quite a bit).
A leader from my church had arranged for a few of us to conduct a service for about 100 men in the prison. It was a rare privilege to be with these guys, and I was struck by a couple of things. First of all, they were the most attentive bunch of listeners I think I have ever encountered. When you are up front, you can tell by people’s expressions if they are really all there. These guys were more "present" than most congregations I’ve experienced on a given Sunday. After our service they eagerly filed past to shake our hands and tell us how glad they were for our visit. Secondly, when we told the inmates that people from our church were sending greetings through us, and that we had prayed for them that morning at church, a number of the men were visibly touched.
The 800 inmates at this facility are largely a forgotten population. To be remembered by even one church was of obvious encouragement to them.
When I got home, my wife and I debriefed about our evenings. She had spent the night at church leading the prayer room. One of the people who came got prayer for sexual abuse received as a child. This person was in a long-term recovery process, and they were finding that Jesus was a present and powerful force, moving them from brokenness to healing.
It struck me—since many of the men I was with were serving sentences for serious crimes committed in Wisconsin, I may well have spent the evening with the man who had years ago abused the person my wife had been praying with; both of them affected by sin and eager to encounter a God who could take them from brokenness into a place of healing—from insecurity to maximum security.
All of us have been victims, and all of us have been victimizers. We all experience freedom and bondage. And all of us are in desperate need of a power that can free us and set us in a place of maximum security—a place where we are known to the very depths of our being and perfectly loved nonetheless. Interesting, isn’t it, that Jesus is the only place on earth that the criminal and the victim come to find a place of belonging and rest—a maximum-security environment.