I, Kelly, am a changed person because of the God I serve, and because of the power of forgiveness that was experienced on our trip to FL. I left a part of myself there and stand in awe of the work of the Holy Spirit. Gray, and especially Abigail and Brandon, say the same.
God opened the doors for a team of 75 people from all over the US, including Abigail, Gray, and myself to be a part of ministering to the incarcerated in 4 FL prisons due to Mike and Suzette Keller, Missionaries to the incarcerated and the IBLP ministry. Also, Florida State Rep. Charles Van Zant. He, as well as the Warden over several prisons there are Christians, and with all of them together there is an ongoing presence there along side the Keller's. The Keller's have been faithful and God is working mightely through them in varioius FL prisons. It's been a joy and blessing to witness their hearts for these people.
(Brandon is in the red shirt in the front row)
(Abigail is top row, third from left. I am almost center next to blonde lady in bright salmon shirt)
We were there for a week working daily through Biblical curriculum called Journey to the Heart. It teaches to the unsaved and disciples the saved. It was daily from 9 am - 8:30 pm. We would have large group time where we taught, sang and played music, worshiped, prayed, and read Scripture. This was primarily lead by Becky Keilen, Ruthie Westfhal and Laura Oliverio. Also, Sarah Waller and Ruthie live and work among them most of the year. These ladies just love these women and it is evident! They have amazing Godly wisdom and were such a blessing. We would then break into small groups and counsel more one on one. Abigail and I were team leaders of separate teams. We were able to Scripturally help these ladies get to the root of many problems.
When we entered the first morning the prisoners stood and cheered like celebrities. We looked around wondering who they were cheering for, it was us! It was awkward but, they quickly told us it was because they were so thankful for our love, Jesus' love.
Most of the prisoners were hungry and desperate and have never known real love, which was overwhelming to me. They were real and wanted help. Some were hard, afraid, mad they were there or mad they got caught. There were all kinds of emotions that made for an intense and emotional week.
Abigail and I were part of a smaller team that went into a group of prisoner's that had just arrived in prison. We would get an hour and then the next day some had already been shipped to other prisons, or there would be new inmates. The eyes were desperate, the faces fearful. Some were cold and distant. One young woman just started crying and asked me to hug her. There were salvations, brokenness, and the presence of Jesus.
Here are a lot of the men on the men's team, and some kitchen support. Gray is 5th from the right. Brandon is 4th from left. This is at the Child Evangelism Fellowship Children's Camp. They were gracious enough to allow everyone stay here.
Grayson was part of the kitchen team, among other various duties. He helped prepare a meal each night in a separate building that was on the men's prison compound for the team of approximately seventy-five. His favorite part of the week was hearing the testimonies that we would all share at dinner time, then pray over them. We would then return to the prisons for the night session.
In our briefing the Keller's stressed to us making sure of their salvation because all religions come into the prisons. So, the two main concerns were their salvation and walking people through gaining freedom in forgiveness and bitterness.
It was a distinct honor to work with the team of women we were on! These gals love the Lord, His Word, prayer and people! Can't say enough about our time together there. Well, I guess that it just wasn't long enough to fellowship with them!
Thirty-five were saved, that we know of and there were a tremendous amount that forgave and had true reconciliation from a life of damage, pain and abuse. I wish I could share every testimony! It was faith building to witness the power of God work in the hearts and lives of these women.
I know what some of you are thinking – were we afraid? Someone asked me before I went in, “Are you afraid a fight will break out?" or "Are you afraid to get AIDS?” Honestly, I was more concerned with making sure I had God's words and God's answers. I realized that I just wouldn't have all the answers these women needed. I couldn't possibly always understand what they'd been through however, I knew a God that did! I felt inadequate but, I knew the Holy Spirit in me was more than enough. My prayer was that I wanted them to know Jesus loved them and that He had a purpose for them - even in prison. I purposed to shake every hand and look in every eye and name every name possible and mostly, try and get to every heart for Jesus.
More of the Women's team outside the dinner hall
One of our team dinners
On our way out of town Suzette Keller and Priscilla Waller treated the kitchen team and our family to a glass bottom boat ride and the beautiful grounds at Silver Springs
One of my spiritual mentor's, prayer partner's and dear friend - Suzette
Kitchen Crew - plus a few little "helpers" =D
Road trip to Florida!