Revelations: Turkey and jail
BY JENNIFER PREYSS
Do you ever experience one of those moments where life just seems to make sense? You know, a moment that grabs you by the heart and forces you to absorb the greater reality around you?
I experienced such a moment last week, while sitting with a group of Victoria inmates at a Christmas luncheon at the John Wesley United Methodist Church. Throughout the year, the church's hospitality team donates their time to prepare home-cooked meals for non violent inmates.
And during the Christmas season, the church puts on an even grander dinner, complete with gifts, entertainment and devotional readings.
Upon entering the church, I was enthusiastically greeted by the church's pastor. He extended his hand to greet me, then escorted me to the dinner. I stood for a moment and allowed my eyes to scan the room, and really take inventory of what I was seeing.
About 60 people - comprised of law enforcement officials, church members, and male and female inmates - crowded around the long rectangular tables and chit-chatted over a turkey and stuffing dinner. When the inmates wanted more mashed potatoes, or pumpkin pie, they casually strolled over to the buffet table and grabbed whatever they wanted. I'm sure after spending several months in jail, the feeling of freedom, if only for an afternoon, was such a momentous reward for them.
If it wasn't for the obvious green-and-white-striped uniforms each of inmates was wearing, it would have looked like any other church Christmas party. We were all one group and didn't appear to have any "them" and "us" attitudes.
I've participated in many church outreach programs through the years, but the inmate luncheon struck a chord with me. All I considered as I strolled through the dining hall, introducing myself to the guests, was how infrequently I get to witness acts of kindness that are truly liken to Jesus. I was reminded of the many Bible stories I've read about the people Jesus chose to befriend. He made a point to seek out the most troubled people, those who otherwise would have been shunned from mainstream society, and love them for love's sake.
And in that moment, watching a group of church folks gently serve, then eat with a group of obvious convicts, I was humbled, and reminded how we often forget that God doles out the same love and consideration for us, as he would for any of the inmates at that table.
It reminded me also, that even though I don't wear a green-and-white-striped uniform, my offenses against God aren't considered less, simply because they're not illegal, and I didn't have to serve time behind bars.
So, thank you to John Wesley Methodist for putting on this wonderful lunch. And thank you inmates for a really fun Christmas memory. Good luck to you all. I'll be thinking and praying for you.
Jennifer Preyss is the Advocate's faith reporter. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.