My friend Ken is currently incarcerated, serving a sentence of 20 months. Ken became my friend through the ministry of Celebrate Recovery, and from there, Ken eventually became an active member of the church.
When Ken received his sentence for the crimes that he committed before I got to know him, I was brokenhearted. My friend was going to have to spend close to two years in prison and I was concerned that this might cause Ken to question his faith. Any fear that I had was wiped away when Ken called me the next day. In that call, Ken began to assure me that God had gone before him, and that God had sent him there to be His witness.
In the weeks to come, Ken began to teach Bible study to a small group of inmates. Soon, inmates would come to his bunk at night so Ken could have prayer with them. When the inmates would come to his bunk for prayer, they began to notice all of the cards and notes that Ken had received from our church. None of the inmates had witnessed such a display of support from back home, and they would ask Ken about what type of church this was.
Ken would tell them about this loving United Methodist congregation that had taken him in and helped him restore his life. He would tell them about the radical hospitality that he received, and how the worship would stir his soul. He would tell them about the love that he had for the people, and how they loved him, and all of this was a beautiful gift from God.
Ken told me that their faces looked confused when he would tell them about his church, and they would almost always ask, “Is that a white or a black church?” Ken said it was because they could not understand how a “white” congregation could accept a “black man” like him.
Ken tells me that our church is now famous in the institution where he is serving. He said people come up all the time and ask him about that “white church.” But Ken’s response is what moves me most; Ken tells them it’s not a “white church, but it’s a church where we are all one because of Jesus Christ.”
May we all see the church as Ken sees it, and as Paul saw it when he said in Galatians 3:28: 28 (NASB), “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”