Thursday, December 17, 2009

Plans

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you; to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you." 
Jeremiah 29:11-14

One of my favorite verses!

One of my wife's favorite passages, as well.  Each time I get into the vehicle she drives, there it sits near the gas gauge to be read by whoever is sitting behind the wheel.

The verse is imprinted on my heart and really not one I have to read anymore, as I know it.  And when I say I know it, I mean I KNOW it!

It is a meaty piece of scripture.  It gives God's promise that he has plans for us - that when we go to him he will listen to us (that still just blows me away!) - and that he will be found by us when we seek after him.

Simply astonishing, isn't it?  I don't understand why, other than to attribute it to the greatness of my Savior!

I spent last weekend with some members of my Christian community inside the walls of the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility, a medium security prison affectionately know as "Gladiator Camp," helping conduct a spiritual retreat for the inmates of this facility.

To say that they Spirit is alive and well would be an understatement.  And to say that He performed miraculous signs and wonders inside the walls of this prison would be, too.  Lives were forever changed inside those walls last weekend - the lives of the inmates as well as the volunteers from the outside who ventured in to be God's hands and feet.

Prison is a dark, cold place where even the meekest of young men is forced to put on this rugged, tough persona that only God can tear down and rebuild.  There is so much pain, suffering and torment in the lives of these guys that it really breaks my heart.  To see guys having to live in a 6x9x7 cell with two or three other men - that's right - two or three other men - and to endure all that comes along with being on the inside simply rips my heart out.

My wife and I have four children, the oldest of whom is now pushing 16.  She isn't too much younger than some of the offenders I spent last weekend with.  The men with whom I shared a table have been on my heart all week long, as has another young man with whom a connection was sparked almost immediately.


Growing up not too far from the community in which I reside, we hit it off.  We talked a lot about life, Jesus, and how he hopes to function when he gets out and is back to life on the streets.  I hope to be able to be part of his life on the streets.


He brought pictures of his family one day, pictures of his younger brother and his little sister.  He spoke of his mother and even gave me her name.


We all said our goodbyes on Sunday evening and we ventured home.  My table guys on my heart, and this young man, too.  Throughout the day Monday I had this feeling that I needed to follow through on, so around 5:30 I did it.


Remember our oldest child is not too much younger than some of these guys.  The parenting instinct me just aches for parents on the outside whose children are doing time!  The feelings of guilt, the pain of carrying around the fact that your son is locked up and having to exist in prison, and everything else a normal person would think of is unbearable.


I felt all day long like I needed to reach for the phone and let this mother know that I had spent the weekend with her son, that he had a great weekend, and that he had someone on the outside both praying for him and hoping to be part of his life when he reenters society.


And so I did it?


The phone rings and I have a sense of peace as it is answered.


"Hi, my name is Chris Godfredsen and I live in Rock Valley."


"Okay," says the mother.  "Hi."


"The reason I am calling tonight is to tell you that I spent the weekend with your son in Fort Dodge and we had a great weekend."


Sobbing is what I heard on the other end of the line.  Crying like you rarely hear.


"My wife and I have four kids of our own and I can only imagine what it must be like for you, so I wanted to let you know that he has someone out here, other than his family, who loves him and will be here for him when he gets out."


Click.


We got disconnected, but the line rang immediately.


"I am sorry," she said.  "I am sorry for crying and for hanging up."


We talked for a while longer and I was blessed tremendously through our conversation.  We talked a bit about the weekend, who each other is and discovered that we even do a little business with one another.


We said goodbye, wished each other a Merry Christmas and hung up.


I shared the conversation with my wife and we both prayed for this family, I know.


Tuesday morning upon arriving at my office I had two blank emails from this mother, so I typed her a note to tell her how good it was to visit and that I remain in prayer for her son and all of those guys who touched my heart last weekend.


This is her reply.  I share it not as not to prop myself up, cuz there is nothing worth propping, if you know what I mean.  I share it as a testament to God's amazing grace and desire to use his people:



"I feel badly for losing control of my emotions last night so instantly after you called.  (My son) had been on my heart so much yesterday and I was yearning to know how everything went. Your first words to me 'I spent the weekend with your son' felt like they were not only coming from you but also directly from God, telling me He was there with (my son), too. It was the most powerful statement I think I have ever heard, Chris. I feel and carry the loneliness (my son) lives in every day and I know I can't even feel it as deeply as he does and then to hear that you spent the weekend with my son - spent time with him - gave of your time, was an overwhelming emotion to know and realize he wasn't alone last weekend.

(My son) has such a beautiful heart. I feel I have let him down in so many ways and I wish there was a rewind button to push to see if something different would have made a bigger impact on his life and his decisions. I love him more than he will ever know and want to see him thrive. I know and believe God has wonderful things planned for him! He just needs to believe it as well.  For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD.

Thank you seems so inadequate.  What a blessing your ministry is to inmates and also their families!  I would love to know more about your ministry and how we can help support you.

Merry Christmas to you and your family! You gave us the most precious gift last night with your call!"

I sometimes I have no clue what it is that I am doing - okay, confession time:  Most of the time I don't have a clue what it is that I am doing, but I do know that increasingly I am trying to following God's leading in my life."

Wow!


I know that his plans for me are to experience increasing measures of his grace and peace and that I need to live the words of the prophet Isaiah, spoken in Isaiah 6:8:  Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"


What does all of this mean from here on out, with these inmates and this one particular family?  God knows, and I trust him fully, because I know - KNOW - the plans he has for me are plans to prosper me and not to harm me - to give me hope and a future.  I simply pray that I can be obedient when opportunities are presented me like this one was - to be His voice to a mother who is carrying the burden of a son doing time, to be the arms hugging an inmate who simply needs the love of Jesus in his life.


How about you?  Does someone need to hear from you today?  Does someone need to be touched by God through you today?


Grace and Peace!

1 comment:

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus said...

That just blew my pink-and-yellow striped socks off. What else can I say? God is so, so, so, so good.

Thank you, THANK YOU, for sharing.