For I was in prison, and you came to me

by | Nov 14, 2022

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We are coming to the end of our Bible passage. Severe Weather Shelter Network has always made shelter available for individuals in need. Our only barrier is for people who have “violent offenses against persons” on their background check in the last year. We don’t prevent people from staying with us for any other reason. 


Jesus gives thanks for this group of saints who have visited the prisoner. It may be a bit of a different interpretation, but I would suggest that each of us are prisoners to something. All of us carry the heavy chains of some situation, addiction, personality quirk, or health challenge that limits our freedom to be all that God has designed and called us to be as His children. 


Now I want to think about a shelter night. Let’s dig a little deeper and ask ourselves the question, in what way am I imprisoned? In what ways are our guests imprisoned? How can I be part of welcoming guests and other volunteers in spite of the chains and bondage they, or I may carry? 


I was in prison and you came to me. This is the last statement in the list Jesus elevates for us to think about. This is the deepest level of relationship we encounter in life. To allow someone into your prison is to take a huge risk. Will I be judged? Or will I be loved regardless? 


For some of our guests declining mental health is the prison that traps them. They may have been on the streets now for many years. The power of fear, anxiety and sleep deprivation are having their full impact. The stories our guests tell may seem fantastical to us, but in all truth our guests believe every word they are saying. This is a kind of prison that is hard to break out of. The way out, the key to the prison door is housing, health care, good food, mental health support. Our guests need this. 


Other of our guests are trapped in the prison of various addictions. Meth, cocaine, other substances I do not know enough about and of course, alcohol in all its forms. A hot meal and a safe, warm place to rest for the night is often the best medicine we can provide. It may be a key that eventually opens a door to something more. 


I was in prison and you came to me. 


Your time. Your compassion. Your listening ear and your welcome may be the first key that unlocks something different in our guests. Or maybe even in another volunteer. Perhaps someone on a shelter night will hold a key to your own prison door and you will find the door opened and freedom on the other side. 


Shelter nights are truly transformative. I hope you will join us and learn for yourself the power of relationships. You can join us today through the SWSN Volunteer page on our website.