New Jail Same Jesus

The full armor of God now comes in Kevlar. My gate keeper handed me my vest as we waited for the first of five electronic doors to slide open under the glint of sunlight on razor wire. The yard was empty. Lockdown. My first day visiting level four; population 3500 inmates, maximum seating at the chapel, 35, with two inside guards and a pat down at entry and dismissal.


One size fits all. A tapestry of Mecca hangs geographically correct along one wall, the ten commandments take up another corner in their original Hebrew. The poles and blankets for the Native American sweat lodge don’t come in the chapel per se, needing to be open to the open sky. There’s a banner next to the podium, ”I am the Way, The Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through me.” I smile at the room more than the verse, has to be the most out of the way hole in the wall Jesus has seen since Bethlehem.


I’m told Protestants give the most doctrinal trouble, so we’re keep it to the Holy Trinity, the Lord’s Supper, saved by grace, not by works, full body immersion, and all Scripture is God breathed. I can live with that, and pray that I do. Like anybody entering a church for the first time I wonder how much room the regular attendees will make for a newbie.


God qualifies the called more than he calls the qualified. So says traditional church bulletin wisdom, but it wouldn’t hurt to prepare. I finger through the pulpit Bible, I’m not the first. A note in the fronts piece says, “It’s not how we got here that’s important, it’s where we’re going.”  Philippians 3:13 “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”


One day the gate we walk through will be Saint Peter’s, if we’re Catholic, (the altar nail holds a crucifix, with a plain cross on the B-side), or at least pearled. Some of these Christ forgiven life-with-out-the-possibility-of-parole inmates may already be inside to welcome me, or maybe I’ll be in the reception line eager to introduce them to my parents. What goes on here doesn’t stay here and when the guard tower whistle marks the end of the appointed hour, only the Spirit shared remains, until the scheduler clears a return date for volunteering at yards “A” and “B”.

Will Schmit

Will Schmit is a volunteer outreach prison minister for Lifehouse Church in Arcata Ca. He is the author of Jesus Inside A Prison Minister's Memoir and Training Manual available at The website also includes poetry, ministry updates, and free music downloads for subscribers.

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One comment

  1. Strange, to have a passion for the those forgotten, and to find it worth the three hours of driving and two hours of entry and exit. God bless you man. I know He has and He will some more. Thanks for introducing me to the same call, though my assignment’s much easier.

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