(Over the next few days, guest blogger Marcy Comstock will be sharing her experiences as she enters the Louisiana State Penitentiary with Awana to participate in the Returning Hearts Celebration this weekend. For more information on this event, visit http://awanalifeline.org)
Tonight we sat in a chapel with about 300 inmates, all part of the Psalm 1 program at Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola. Psalm 1 is a program started by Art Rorheim himself which encourages inmates to memorize entire scripture passages and tonight like all good Awana programs they received awards based on level of achievement. We were blessed to be allowed to attend this ceremony along with guests from Awana Headquarters and a few other missionaries. These men, known to the world as murderers, rapist, gang bangers and a lot of other horrible labels, stood in front of us a living example of 2 Corinthians 5:17, new creations reciting Psalm 1, Isaiah 53 and Ephesians 6, not just passages they memorized but ones they seek to live daily.
As the worship band led us in song, awards were handed out, appreciation was expressed for Art loving them and preachers (yes some of these men are now seminary graduates who live life among their flock) spoke I was struck with one basic truth that brought tears to my eyes. My sin, in God’s eyes is the same as the acts that placed these men behind bars for life. These men are overwhelmingly thankful for the free gift of Salvation and for a ministry named Awana which has made an eternal impact in their lives. Tonight those who live behind bars and those of us who don’t sat together under the same labels: brothers and sisters, redeemed sinners, truly free.