This past weekend was the Midwest SIAFU Men’s Conference at Morning Star Ranch in Kansas. As I got settled there, a young man caught my attention and smiled at me. He said, “Do you remember me?” Of course I recognized his face, but I couldn’t place his name and remember where I had met him. I thought that I probably knew him from my time ministering in the prison at Hutchinson. I found out his name was Tony and that he had just been released that Wednesday. He had spent nine years on the inside, and he had been out for three days and found himself at our men’s conference. Now 31, he had been incarcerated since he was 22.
The rest of the conference we spent time getting to know each other better. We talked about life inside and then about adjusting to life on the outside. He told me that he wanted to grow to become an urban missionary like what I did. He wants to make a difference with guys on the streets. He had been at the revival we did in June (read about that here) and had also heard me teach a couple other times at the prison.
One of the personal burdens I feel for the guys I work with is that they may experience the love of the Father. So many of these men have deep wounds from male figures that are hard to heal from. Often they need a deep and profound encounter with the love of the Father that can provide healing from the past. So whenever I lead prayer and ministry times with guys, I normally include a time where we pray for them to encounter the love of the Father.
On the last night of the conference, we closed with a worship, prayer, and testimony time; it’s a powerful time where they can get right with the Lord. As I was praying for this time, I felt the Father clearly say, “Lead them to me, and I will bring healing.”
As I got up in front of the guys, I felt especially burdened. I talked about how our father wounds can give us an orphan spirit. This is simply a feeling that we are alone and lost and without a dad. Even though we may be in Christ, we still feel lost and feel as though we are orphans. I invited the guys be open and to trust that God was going to move and that the love of the true Father would encounter them that night. I could sense the faith in the room grow as they nodded, hungry to experience this.
As we had a prayer time and ministered, there weren’t many dry eyes. The Spirit of God was tangibly moving throughout the room. We then had guys come forward who wanted more prayer. Tony came right up to me and we just hugged and prayed together. As the tears came, he kept saying how he doesn’t want to repeat the mistakes from the past. He has felt like a failure his whole life, but now desperately wants to change. My heart went out to him in a deep way. I sensed such tangible love from the Father for him.
That night after praying with him and so many others, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I thought about the millions in our cities who we are desperate for this encounter with the Father. But there is great hope. God is moving in our prisons and our ministry is providing opportunities for these guys to grow and become leaders. One by one, God is changing the lives.