Prison Ministries: Make a Difference
by Linda Seeber
|Left to right: Shalisha LaFave, Linda Seeber, Christy Noble and (in back) Lathern Seeber|
Isn’t it dangerous to go into a prison?” Many people have asked us this question. Our typical answer is, "No, it is very safe. There are 'correctional officers' and cameras all around. We feel safer in prison than out on the streets. Besides, we get the 'cream of the crop' that come to the chapel services."
My husband Lathern and I have been conducting monthly church services in maximum-security prisons at Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP) in Salem and Coffee Creek Correctional Facility (CCCF) in Wilsonville for almost twenty years with no problems, threats or close calls. Even my timid, smallstature, grown foster daughter Shalisha went in with us faithfully over the years, strongly defending and promoting prison ministry. Despite her many emotional and physical problems, the men and women of our prisons loved her as their little sister. After her death in November of 2011 from complications of Turner’s Syndrome, we were amazed at the many tears shed. Many of them cried and expressed how much they appreciated her coming in and caring about them.
The beauty of their genuine love and caring came from hearts that had been touched by God’s love. Some of these beautiful hearts used to be filled with greed, lust and hate. Some of them have stolen, raped and murdered. But that’s not who they are anymore. Their pasts are washed away and they are new creations in Christ Jesus. The evidence is seen in their eyes, heard in their words and felt in their emotions.
We have been so very blessed to work in prison ministry. It offers us a front-row seat to watch lives change. These people are now dear friends to us and we value them highly. We don’t see them as criminals, just fellow sinners saved by the same grace we need.
We've seen so many examples of changed lives. One man came in deeply troubled and angry, but his heart melted over time and softened to let the compassion of God reign. He now works in the infirmary ministering to the sick. Then there is another who was confused and wrestling with the voices in his head. He now has joy and peace shining from his face. Several inmates were argumentative, but God’s love has changed their attitudes as well. One man could not find any reason to live and longed to die. He too, has found answers for his heart through the love of God, and he wants to help others.
Over the years we have seen so many changes, which we know are a result of not only our family going in, but all the other devoted Adventist volunteers that faithfully fulfill God’s commission to minister to the lowly ones (Matthew 25:40). To be honest, it’s really God doing the work and we just let Him shine through us. And by the way, the safest place you can be is the place where God calls you to minister.