Passover in Prison
Nearly 3,500 years ago, God set our people free from Egypt. Last Passover, I celebrated that great deliverance with two men who know what it means to be captive. You see, Dennis and James are incarcerated.
It all started when I asked Dennis how he was feeling during one of our visits. Sad,” he replied, “sad and a little nostalgic.” He knew Passover was coming up, and this would be the third year he wouldn’t be able to celebrate it with his family. Upon hearing that, I decided to introduce myself to the chaplain.
I asked Chaplain Joe if the prison was planning any Passover observance for the Jewish inmates. He replied that they had contacted the Jewish chaplaincy, but the prison budget would not cover the cost of having someone come. When I said that I would be willing to conduct a service as part of my regular ministry to Dennis and James, Chaplain Joe worked with me to arrange a date and to reserve the chapel. He even asked if he might be allowed to participate in the Passover celebration—something he had always wanted to do. We notified Dennis and James of the date and time.
My wife, Alexandra, prepared the symbolic foods, including hard-boiled eggs, parsley, salt water, horseradish and charoset (a mixture of chopped apples, nuts, cinnamon and honey).
For obvious reasons it was a humble Passover seder. There were no fancy table settings. In fact, there was no table in the prison chapel. We put a few wooden boxes together, covered them with a white bedsheet and that was our seder table. We did not recline on feather pillows (as is customary) but sat on plastic folding chairs. Our seder plates were Styrofoam, we had fruit punch instead of wine and our “candles” were overhead fluorescent lights.
Yet this Passover celebration felt right—maybe a little like the one Yeshua (Jesus) observed with His disciples the night of His betrayal. No frills but plenty of brotherly love. To see the joy around that “table,” one wouldn’t have imagined that we were celebrating in prison. You see, Dennis and James are both Jewish believers in Jesus. They know the kind of freedom most men have never imagined. They are serving the balance of time owed to the state, but their pardon has long since been secured in the heavenlies.
Chaplain Joe, Dennis, James and I packed as much praying, singing and fun as we possibly could into an hour. (That is as much time as we were allowed.) Please pray for these men, that they may continue to walk with the Lord in a dark and dreary place. Pray also for their families and that God will provide for them upon their release (especially James, whose sentence is drawing to an end). Please pray as well that I might minister to more Jewish men in prison. Yeshua can set them free, even in lockup.
Update: Glenn has continued to visit James and Dennis every two or three weeks. Dennis introduced Glenn to Rich, another Jewish inmate who knows the Lord but has acknowledged his need to rededicate his life to Him. Please pray for Rich as he seems to be moving in that direction.