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When Promises Feel Interrupted: Reflections on COVID19 and Prison Ministry

By Gord Allert, Program Coordinator of Prairie’s Prison Bible Encounter

I haven’t worn a watch for years. I guess I felt that having a timepiece strapped to my wrist was redundant since I’m looking at my phone so frequently any way.

That all changed when I started working in prisons. You see, I can’t take my phone into the prisons because no such devices are allowed.

Consequently, I find myself constantly looking for a clock so I can keep track of time when I’m inside. So I dug out one of my old watches and invested seventeen dollars for a new battery. I put it on my wrist back in March when I went to one of our classes in a local prison. 

That was the only time I got to wear it for the purpose I had intended.

The day after that class, prisons went into lockdown mode due to the COVID-19 crisis. Now my watch just sits on my nightstand. I glanced at it this morning and it was still keeping time. Marking the minutes, hours, days, weeks and months since we’ve been able to operate our program inside the prisons.

Every morning it’s a reminder to me that we’re still waiting and with this reminder, I fight the battle of discouragement and bitterness.

When the Promise You Held Onto Feels Interrupted

Maybe you feel the same way. The promise has been interrupted. Every day we look at reminders of the way things used to be and it wears us down. It tires us out. It extinguishes the fire within us with waves of discouragement. And we wait.

I know the Bible says a lot about these things, but a passage from Isaiah both rebuked and encouraged me. 

I’ve just reprinted it below because it speaks for itself.

“Why would you ever complain, O Jacob, or, whine, Israel, saying, “God has lost track of me. He doesn’t care what happens to me”? Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening? God doesn’t come and go. God lasts. He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.

He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath. And he knows everything, inside and out. He energizes those who get tired, gives fresh strength to dropouts. For even young people tire and drop out, young folk in their prime stumble and fall. But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles, They run and don’t get tired, they walk and don’t lag behind.”  Isaiah 40:27-31 The Message (MSG)

I have not felt much like an eagle lately. More like a buzzard, I’m afraid; or like Jonah waiting for Nineveh to implode. 

The fact is, God is the ultimate timekeeper. We are here on his schedule. Not ours. I’m learning that when we try to cope with life’s difficult circumstances without remembering that, we always end up disappointed and deflated.

I’m going to try to look at my watch differently. Rather than letting it remind me of the time that is being lost, I’m going to consider that the watch also counts the future, and the future is in God’s hands, not the hands of my watch.

Prayer Requests for the Prison Ministry

  • I’ve been in contact with the wardens in the prisons we have classes in. They are hopeful that they will receive some direction in June regarding reopening but it may not happen until fall. Pray for a safe and soon return.
  • We’ve heard from several of our students who have communicated by mail. The ones that have written refer to the difficulty in being isolated and locked down; but they also talk about special times with God and continuing their learning journey with Him. Pray for their growth and protection in isolation.
  • When we return, we will have lost some students to release and transfer. At least one of our students had a complete breakdown and was moved. Pray that none of these slip through the cracks or become lost to us.
  • We are using the time to develop our program financially and academically. Pray that we would be successful as we develop new courses and endeavor to raise the necessary funds that will accommodate the growth that we experienced before the lock-down.

 

About Prison Ministry at Prairie

With the goal of bringing transformation and true heart change in Canada’s prisons, Prairie has introduced the Prison Bible Encounter Program, a college-level course of study that is changing lives inside the walls of Canadian Correctional Institutions.

In September of 2016 the first class began at Bowden Institution, northwest of Three Hills; and then the program expanded to Drumheller, southeast of Three Hills, in early 2018, and then to the Edmonton Institution in 2019.

The Prison program is funded by donors, and we are so grateful to them. 

About Gord Allert
When Gord came to Prairie College, the Prison Bible Encounter Program was just a dream. It was enough, however, for him to make a career change in anticipation of one day being involved in the lives of inmates. Today, as the leader of the Prison Bible Encounter Program, Gord has shared the challenges and victories he has seen with many groups and would be happy to come and share with yours.

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