Sunday, January 21, 2007

Inside, outside

Had to skip our own church service this morning to go to prison in Alphen aan den Rijn where our government is building the largest prison of the Netherlands. A part of this complex is already in use, the large new buildings are almost finished and they will accommodate 'illegal' foreigners. This is what it will look like when it is finished: Well, quite a nice, modern building, don't you think? Let me tell you, it's good to be on the outside - it's not so nice to be locked away inside, waiting for the day that you will be released again, hoping that there will be somebody waiting for you at the gate.

Together with some volunteers of our church I attend church services inside this prison once or twice a month. We make tea and coffee, sing classic hymns and modern praise & worship songs, listen to the sermon of the pastor and try to have a short talk with the inmates before they have to go back to their cells. I love being involved in this work and, although I don't like to miss out on our own church services, it truly is a blessing for me to take part in this prison ministry.

Together with a sister from my church I drove to prison this morning in my car. We listened to a CD with a sermon from our own pastor, he was talking about Naaman - an important Syrian general who was cured of leprosy by the God of Israel. From the outside this man looked strong, impressive and healthy, but under his uniform a terrible skin disease was slowly spreading. This high ranking soldier had to humble himself before God in order to get healed. (Read his story here).

The prison minister talked about another Bible story. In Mark 12:38-44 you can read about Jesus who is criticizing the scribes, "who love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts, who devour widow's houses, and for a pretense make long prayers..." Jesus is comparing these self righteous hypocrites to a poor widow who was selflessly giving away all that she had.

I looked around at the 'tough guys' who look like body builders - unapproachable, even intimidating. I looked at the pastor in his robe, I thought about the way I look from the outside and the way I really am on the inside. I had to go through the X-ray gate this morning before they allowed me to enter this prison. I know God sees right through me just like that. He knows that I need to be healed from the inside out and He is not impressed by outer appearances. It was good to go to church in prison today and learn some important lessons...

Yesterday I uploaded a video clip on this blog. You can watch and listen to it if you scroll way down to the bottom of this screen: ("the best song ever" - but that is just my humble opinion). Surprise, surprise... this morning we had some other visitors in prison, members of a Gospel band, and the first song they played was God of the Moon and Stars. (You can read Paul Field's lyrics here)

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.
(1 Samuel 16:7)

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:22)