I used to sing at church a lot growing up, and even helped lead our churches' children's and youth choirs at some point in life too. I was part of a choir in high school and in college. I sang all the time.
And then I started teaching and my voice became a big like sandpaper. I have that "sexy, smoky" voice all the time--which would be cool IF it didn't hinder my singing voice or occasionally make me sound like a young boy going through puberty.
I've never been bold about my singing, but it was something I took pride in and it's been sad to feel like I've lost that. Recently I decided to join the Singers at my church as a way to give my voice some exercise and help it gain back some of its former glory. That has yet to happen... but oddly enough, my voice tends to sustain itself during the times I help lead in worship. That's been pretty awesome.
But all that is besides the point. Or at least not why I'm writing this blog.
Joining Singers has allowed me to be a part of a community who shares two passions of mine: singing and being on mission for God. And being a part of this group also has made me realize how timid I am about both of these passions. Which is kind of sad. Cause if they are passions, I should be pretty fiery about them, right?
Today we had the chance to join with C.H.A.R.M. (a ministry that seeks to minister to those in prison) on a visit to Plane State Prison. We were to lead in worship, the CHARM ladies would give a message and pray for people. I was sure what to expect, but everyone who had gone on a similar mission trip spoke of how powerful it was.
After we had gone through all the security and checked in, we were lead to their chapel. As we began to set up, I noticed one of the CHARM ladies walking with an inmate row by row. They were talking together, and as they got closer I realized that they were prophesying over each row--speaking and praying a vision of what the women who would sit in each chair would experience during our time together. It broke my heart (in a good way) and I found myself silently praying along with them.
And then the guards started filing women in. One thing that struck me was how haggard many of these women looked--old and young. Life had definitely dealt them a tough blow and my heart broke for them. I wondered about each of their stories, what had brought them to this place, and how long they would have to be in this place. On the first row were women with their Bibles who were eager to be here, but there were others who openly admitted that they were here because the chapel was the one cool place to be.
The second thing that struck me was that each woman was dressed in all while. Including the shoes. My first thought was this: God can make any of us pure and white as snow again. Who cared what their stories were? Who cared what led them to this place? They were here and He could cleanse them and do a mighty thing in and through them.
When we started singing, I watched as some ladies sang along, raised their hands and worshiped along with us. Others sat silent, yet engaged. And others still, laughed the whole time and only gave us attention when our "star" singers stepped forward and rocked the place with their voices. I prayed for these women and kept the thought I had as I saw them in white in my head.
And then it was time for the message... oh, boy. I can barely articulate how good it was. But the thing that struck me the most about what was sad is that we serve a God who Sees. He sees all that we do and He sees where we are. And he meets us there.
He meets us there.
He sees these women and was meeting them right there behind bars.
He sees me in all my timidity and meets me there.
I can't even begin to explain how powerful that was. Or how powerful it was to watch tears fall from these women's eyes (including the ones joking while we sang) and to watch them raise their hands and ask for our prayers. Or to join us in worship as we closed out. And ask us to sing more and more and more.
The white prison garments brought more holy imagery as we closed out worship with "I Can Only Imagine" (at the women's request). As Allison led us in the song, almost every woman stood to her feet and raised her arms to heaven and sang along at the top of her lungs.
It was like watching angels glorifying our Father in heaven.
"I can only imagine what it'll be like..."
Being there was another reminder of how God seeks to redeem us all. No matter who we are. No matter where we've been. He sees us. And if we let ourselves be met in the place that we are, he can redeem us.
|The Singers and C.H.A.R.M.|