And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28, NLT).
During one of my first trips to Russia, the team that I was leading visited a Russian prison. Only obedience to God’s calling would cause anyone to travel halfway around the world to visit a Russian prison!
But we did.
The prison had been experiencing a revival, and many had come to know Jesus. The believing prisoners had arranged the use of the prison camp auditorium. With the entire prison population invited to attend, we took our seats in the front row as their worship band began leading worship.
After worship, a young man who was a leader of the believers in that prison stood and said, “We have the Americans with us today. They will talk to us about Jesus.”
I felt a slight twinge of apprehension with the team being introduced to hundreds of Russian inmates as “the Americans.” And in conjunction with my fears, as the first “American” began to speak, there was a power failure.
Total darkness – no backup generators or lighted exits.
A team member sitting next to me said, “I think that I sense a hostage situation.”
I started laughing, the Americans around me who heard the comment started laughing, and then some of the prisoners, even though they didn’t speak English, began laughing.
The lights came on. Fear gone. Powerful preaching resumed. The Spirit of God fell, and many came to know Jesus.
There are moments in life that you never forget, memories that you cherish. A short-term mission trip to a dank and dirty Russian prison provided one of those moments. I still laugh every time I think of the statement …
I think that I sense a hostage situation.
The young Russian who introduced our team was released from prison a few years later. Out of prison, he founded the largest prison ministry in Russia, reaching over 400 prisons. He also began working in media and now oversees a Russian-language TV and video production company broadcasting to Russians in over 100 countries.
God can reach out during our darkest moments and do something spectacular.
A few years later, a group from Fellowship Church in Springfield, Ohio, entered a correctional facility in Ohio to hold a three-day seminar training inmates in one-on-one discipleship. The warden told us that we would have 26 inmates in our seminar. She also said we would be alone with the prisoners and that if anything happened, we would be on our own.
Do you sense a hostage situation?
The lights did stay on, but again the Spirit of God fell. Twenty-six inmates made a commitment to disciple at least one prisoner per year while in the prison.
Years later, I talked to one of the original 26 inmates who told me, “All 26 who attended the discipleship conference are still faithful to God, and they are still discipling.”
Hundreds were discipled in that prison in a few short years.
God working all things for our good is dependent on only one thing – our obedience to His calling.
Nothing wrong with a hostage situation when God is in charge!