I took the second of my monthly trips to prison with our church group to visit our "jailbirds" in a Hong Kong prison. Our group of inmates was slightly larger this time, 8 inmates instead of 6. (and yes, for those who read my first blogs on prison ministry... Angel was there again. "Do you really believe in angels?" he asked me. "You're standing right in front of me, aren't you?" I replied)
It turns out, though, that only non-Hong Kong or Chinese nationals can come to our group (somebody's rules... rest assured there is another Christian group for them in the afternoon, but it seems too bad, since Jesus Christ is pretty big on getting beyond national/cultural distinctions!)
So we have an interesting group of inmates from several different continents... Who would have thought I would come to Hong Kong to minister to guys from South America and South Africa?! Most are in for 6-8 years for drug trafficking. Several of them have never actually seen Hong Kong and wonder what it's like -- they were arrested at the airport!
Our topic today was "How do you know faith is real?" and these guys were brutally honest with their questions. They don't pretend to "feel" faith or believe in anything unless they really do. One of the guys with the most questions and what we would call "doubts" was the same guy who said, "I need this hour and a half with you guys so much. You get to go back to your work and your churches and your families, and if you have a question or want support in living a better life, you can turn to others. But we here in prison just go back to to our cells and there is nothing and there is nobody to remind us how God wants us to live. Until the next time you come. So please come back."
In all my years of parish ministry, I've rarely heard that kind of a thirst for the teaching of Jesus.
"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" Psalm 42:2
The answer for my soul right now, in prison! I get to go and meet with God -- and his angels!-- in a Hong Kong prison.