On February 14, 2000 I walked out of Vista Detention Facility in San Diego County; I actually ran once I made it to the parking lot
On Friday October 25 2013 I willingly walked into San Quentin State Prison
Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary.
Upon entering San Quentin we stood for a few minutes to allow me to adjust and get a bearing on what's around me; to realize I am in a prison. We headed for the chapel where we greeted a few men; one man was anticipating my visit and greeted me by name.
While the preaching class started I had an opportunity to have a conversation with a man who less than five minutes into our conversation told me he has been in prison longer than I've been alive; it was a sobering thought to process. I had a wonderful conversation with this man and learned quickly he has been a follower of Christ for the last 30 years. I was impressed at the hope this man has in Christ; the joy he has deep in his heart. This man once lived his life one way, met a man named Jesus Christ in one of the darkest places in America and now is a changed man (Ephesians 4:22-24). At the conclusion of our conversation he asked how he could pray for me: I was humbled.
During the preaching class I had an opportunity to interject some of my thoughts/experiences from preaching over the last decade. The class lasts for three hours and after the break it was my turn to preach. I preached a 15 minute message and afterward the inmates critiqued my message; it was rough getting critiqued but I think I handled it well. They picked apart my entire message: introduction, text, Biblical application, transitions, big idea, exegesis of the text, tone of voice, influx, cadence, closer and much more. After it was all said and done I passed! I got a 96.5 on my message.
Our three hours were complete and it was time to head out. After passing through the entry way; with two doors to keep you in. As we left I casually asked the guard how many visitors come in daily, his answer was "about 100". As I jumped in my truck the first thing I did was to call my wife to let her know I was safe. It was a humbling experience to have donuts in the morning with my girls, preaching in San Quentin and head home. This trip was great for me to help some guys become better preachers but a humbling experience I needed.
Three things I'm taking away from this experience:
1. I am a blessed man
2. I was encouraged by the incarcerated church
3. Going to prison is a humbling experience