Update on Bruce's Ministry Time in South Carolina at the State Penitentiary
The Lion in the Tyger
I sit here, home, enjoying the very present thoughts from my two-day sexual-purity seminar in the Tyger River, South Carolina state penitentiary at the beginning of this week. I have had many glorious times of ministry the past few years, but few would compare with my time with those 50 inmates.
I was there because of the impact my book, To Kill a Lion, had made on the inmates. Ruthie stayed with friends in NC, and I went into the prison. Jeremiah greeted us as we arrived at the chapel in a yard surrounded by a double fence of razor wire. Jeremiah was full of joy. His whole thrill in life is knowing Jesus. After reading my book he persuaded the head Chaplain to bring me into the prison.
I stayed in an attitude of prayer not having a clue what would greet me in the chapel. The assistant chaplains arrived, about eight. Some traveled from hours away to be there, and a couple from PA. The atmosphere was full of spirit and passion. I bonded immediately with the assistants.
As I chatted with Jeremiah, he proudly told me he gets out in 78 days. His mother was a prostitute who taught him to steal for food as a young child. Eventually he got caught and ended up in Tyger River. He had been there for 24 years. I asked another man when he was getting out. He replied, “I got life.”
Grateful For Prison?
Many of the men I met could thank God for being put in prison: One said, “I would be dead by now, and would never have found Jesus.” Another young man who was part of a drug cartel told his story with tears. “I killed many people. I spent most of my life in and out of jail. Everything I did was to find acceptance and love. My biggest sorrow is that I wish I would have found Jesus earlier.” Another young man, who couldn’t come to the seminar because he was in his fourth year in “lockdown,” an 8 x 10 room with only a plexiglass window. He got only one hour out a day in the bland and barren yard. One of the chaplains told him I was teaching a seminar. I put my ear to the door crack to listen as he asked, “Did you write To Kill a Lion?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “I need that book. I put a request in to get it last week.” I told him that I would leave a signed book for him at the office in case his request was granted.
At one point in my meetings a guy stood up and said, “I didn’t know if I was going to come or not to the meetings, but when I heard that the author was coming, I decided to come. You are the author and you are coming in here, in person, to talk to us! That’s amazing!” I said to him, “You don’t understand, I am the privileged one. I am no better than you!” I taught about an hour on how we all have value in God and are not defined by our actions.
Many of you have been involved in prison ministry. I have done some. But I commend those of you who take your time to show love to those who are behind bars. I have a new heart for what you do.
I had about five hours of teaching time on each day—Monday and Tuesday. I went for the heart and exposed roots of fear, rejection, low self worth, father and mother wounds, condemnation and shame, and more. After each session, one by one, they would stand and tell a story about pain, mistakes, and horrible abuse. Then they would break their agreements with the lie, the pain, the inner vow. They forgave their fathers. They forgave their mothers. They renounced fears. They overcame shame. They received the value of God. They wept. They rejoiced.
I could go on and on—sad stories now soaked in redemption. Each time I asked guys to stand after a session if they needed to do business with God and break agreements, one or two of the staff stood up too, in addition to the inmates. One older chaplain found a reason to undo a lifetime of feeling underneath others. He had been taught that it was Godly to devalue self.
At the end of Tuesday, I gave each man a hug and a book. They were now my new friends. They couldn’t have been more grateful.
Those of you who attend ACTS: I thank you for making this possible. Ruthie and I are extensions of you! Thank you to all of you who prayed for us while we were at Tyger River. And there were some others of you who had a heart for the Tyger River inmates who financially supported my mission into the prison. I am grateful for your enabling. May your reward be great!