The Christians that Meet on Livingstone Avenue
In February of 2020, I received a wonderful email from a sister-in-Christ I had never met named Jan. My close friend, Janice McDonald, worships with Jan and let her know about my book Your Fresh Start, suggesting it as perhaps a resource for sharing the gospel with the women she teaches the Bible to at a local jail. Jan loved the idea, so after our initial email exchange, we chatted on the phone about my own volunteer work I enjoyed within a similar population in Oregon and we started brainstorming how to use Your Fresh Start to best serve these precious souls.
Only a few days after that phone call, Christian Miller, a preacher’s wife, sent me a happy email about how she had created a couple of beautiful PowerPoint lessons for the two lessons she had volunteered to teach from Your Fresh Start to her local ladies' class. She was open to my sharing it with Jan and when I let Jan see Christian’s beautiful work, Christian and I were both jazzed that Jan was game for using Christian’s work for her classes at the jail.
When Mark and I walked into Livingstone, I was excited for him to meet some of the wonderful people there I had had the joy of worshipping with, in my previous travels. It was so nice to meet Jan in person, as well. We chatted a while about some of the ins and outs of the program at Pasco Jail. I was delighted to learn that there were quite a few programs in which Christians around Florida were participating in both jails and prisons for both men and women inmates. I also discovered that although Jan’s program had only begun in March of 2018, that in that short time, it had already touched 250 women’s hearts to learn about Jesus. The men’s studies began six months later and had reached more than 75 male inmates. Unfortunately, these efforts had been put on hold temporarily due to the pandemic.
Jan and I would LOVE to see more Christians around the country begin classes at their locals jails and prisons, after all, our Lord says in Matthew 25:36,40 to the “sheep on the right” about to inherit the kingdom of God prepared for them from the foundation of the world, “I was in prison and you came to visit me ... I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
I admire the humbleness and love necessary in the hearts of those who do this kind of work, and I adore the idea of being used by God to set prisoners spiritually free. "He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free, the LORD gives sight to the blind, and LORD lifts up those who are bowed down, the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked." (Psalm 146:7-9)
Jan, in her beautiful volunteer spirit, would love for other Christians in other communities to begin a work like this. She welcomes your questions on this kind of work at firstname.lastname@example.org regarding her group’s approach to handling the details of this kind of ministry. Every institution will of course have its own individual guidelines, but Jan has had experience working in more than one jail or prison.
God has used this congregation in so many beautiful ways, including sustaining the soul of my precious friend, Janice for years. One reason is how high the quality of the sermons are at Livingstone. The Christians at Livingstone not only have a volunteer spirit, but they are also deep thinkers and genuine feelers. I believe part of this maturity comes from the depth of the classes and sermons that contribute to growing hearts like Jan’s and Janice’s that are so “others” centered. In fact, the sermon we heard during our visit was stellar, and deserves a thorough listen here:
One of the evangelists, Edwin Crozer, was kind enough to send me his outline so I could share a portion of his great sermon here. It is taken from Isaiah 62:
“...the Lord will take delight in you,
and your land will be married.
As a young man marries a young woman,
so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
so will your God rejoice over you.
I have posted watchmen on your walls, Jerusalem;
they will never be silent day or night.
You who call on the Lord,
give yourselves no rest,
and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem
and makes her the praise of the earth.” (vs 4-7)
“Let me ask you. Does it seem to you that the church is diminishing in our nation? Does it seem like the nations and the kings of the earth are thinking less and less of the church? Does it seem to you like the world thinks the church is more and more forsaken? Is it possibly because we’ve been allowing God too much rest? Is it because we think too small in our prayers? Is it perhaps because we pray to little? What might happen if Christians everywhere started praying Isaiah 62? What would happen if Christians everywhere beseeched the Lord to wake up and make a stand on the earth? What would happen if Christians everywhere pleaded that the Lord arise and wondrously show His love and favor upon His city, His heavenly Jerusalem, and displayed us as the crown jewel in His hand? What if we prayed that He prepare the way, that He build up the highway, that He clear it of stones, that He lift up a signal over the peoples?
You know, it took only Daniel praying to provoke the Lord to fulfill His promise to release Israel from Babylonian captivity and restore them to the promised land. What might happen if Christ’s church decided to keep God awake with prayers for Him to bring victory to His kingdom in the world? And what if we simply decided to keep praying like that until He did, even if it took 100 years?
I get it, we can’t get the whole church the world over praying like this. But we could start ourselves. What if we decided we would do our part of keeping God awake as much as we can? What if we decided right now to make 2021 the year we did our dead-level best to keep God awake? Remember, when we pray, God works.
How many friends do you have that tell you to keep them all hours of the night, to call them all the time day and night, to keep them awake. Only one. And yes, I know that is because God actually doesn’t sleep. But isn’t it great to have at least one friend like that? How about we start right now pounding on His door?” ~ Edwin Crozier
The Christians that Meet on Livingstone Avenue
18308 Livingstone Ave.
Lutz, FL 33559