NOTE: This is a follow up blog to the June 21 Blog “In God Nothing Is Too Extreme - A PINE VALLEY UMC Ministry Story about the 2019 IGNITE Music in Mission visit to Henrico County Regional Jail East”. IGNITE is Pine Valley UMC’s Youth Worship Arts Ministry. Each year they minister through song, skits, and dance and take the show on the road. This year’s trip was to Virginia and included a visit to the Henrico County Regional Jail East.
For those of you who were blessed to see Pine Valley United Methodist Church IGNITE’s “Search and Rescue” program you may remember there was a skit called “Sheep On The Lam” (Sermon On A Stage) about the one lost sheep. The gist of the skit is that a Shepherd had lost one sheep and the lost and found department did not see the need in looking for ONE lost sheep when He still had 99! As the Shepherd was leaving the clerk asked, “if you already had 99 sheep, why’d you really waste your time looking for just one?” The Shepherd told him that that sheep was the most important. The clerk was confused wondering if it was because he had the fluffiest wool or worth the most at the market? The Shepherd answered, “No. He’s the most important because he was lost.”
Matthew 18:12-14, “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.” Luke 15:4, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?”
This week PVUMC received a letter from an inmate, John, who saw “Search and Rescue” when IGNITE visited the jail he is in. These are his words, “...I am writing you this letter to thank you and those wonderful young adults who came and performed drama skits and Christ with us. Your mission team had me in laughter and in tears. You guys reached me...made me rethink my life and understand that that moment was a time I could just start over again in Christ. You all helped Jesus find a lamb that day...I want to thank you all for helping me start the process of coming back to Christ and starting over. I pray for your safe travels and your ability to reach others through your missions. You guys were awesome!! I have been locked up now since August 4th of last year and that was the best day I have ever had since I have been here. Many of my friends say hi and thank you….at our feelings and focus meeting person after person talked about how you touched them that day….I just wanted you guys to know you are reaching people through Christ. Thank you. Enjoy yalls summer! I’ll be released July 9th in 16 days so I plan on going back to church giving up the alcohol and becoming the man God needs me to be.” “P.S. Timothy 1:15-17, ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.’”
What a praise report for PVUMC to receive. I am so touched that John took the time to send us a letter and share his testimony. We are to share our testimonies according to 1 Chronicles 16:8, “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” What a praise report for our youth who visited this man in jail. Matthew 25:39-40, “Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me.”
We are all prisoners to something. Some of us may not sit behind physical prison walls like this man does but we all spend time in “prison”. We can all be set free of the shackles through Jesus Christ. Psalm 107:14, “He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains.” We have all been in captivity, in darkness, in misery and in chains due to our rebellion against God. God humbled our hearts and we find ourselves in a situation where we have come to the end of ourselves. We are finally ready to cry out for help. Sometimes there is no one there. But when we cry out to the Lord, He is there to save us! I believe God knew before John was born that on June 19, 2019 he would be in jail and each one of us (he knew our names) would be there to show the love of Christ. God had been humbling John’s heart - and many others. John was ready to give up and call out and The Good Shepherd was there to pick Him up and celebrate his coming home!
And while John plans to give up alcohol he will probably face temptation. Romans 7:24, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” We all have temptations towards sin and pride. In the middle of temptation we can pray, “Lord Jesus lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Each one of us are God’s chosen. He laid down His life for us. He has always loved us and always will. He never changes so it will always be this way. Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” He is ready to meet us just where we are.
The greatest joy of all is that this sheep is with the Shepherd. Let’s rejoice with God on finding His lost sheep and let’s pray for John. I believe many people encountered Jesus that day. May we continue to go out and connect hearts to Christ and one another. IGNITE, you helped Jesus find a lamb that day! 1 Corinthians 3:8, “The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor.”