I spent yesterday in prison.

You know what? That’s a sentence I never thought I’d have the opportunity to say in my lifetime.

And, on top of that, I can’t wait to go back!

Larry Skrant is a missionary from our church that spends a lot of time speaking in and teaching classes at local prisons. If you have the time to visit his website and read his testimony, you will be so moved and incredibly blessed by his life story. He had invited our Praise Team leader to attend NCCI’s Sunday service with him and when I heard that she was going, I asked her if they could use a piano player. At that time, I wasn’t even sure if the prison they were going to would even have a piano, but it ended up that they did and I was on my way to experience a whole new level of worship.

We left our church right after the music portion of the service and made the 1 1/2 hour drive to NCCI in Marion. A couple of weeks ago, Larry made sure we knew the “rules” so that we wouldn’t end up getting in “trouble” and having to spend the entire afternoon out in the visitor’s waiting room. So, here were the rules:

1) you must bring a picture ID
2) you must not wear anything low-cut or revealing in any way
3) no one is allowed to wear jeans
4) you must not wear shoes that show your toes or your heels (?)
5) you cannot bring your wallet, money, or cell phones in with you
6) everything that we were bringing (ie. Bible, sheet music, etc.) had to be logged with the warden by the Wednesday prior to when we would be there

I finally put together an appropriate outfit that was based entirely around the fact that I only have two pairs of shoes that have a closed toe and a closed heel. I am definitely lacking in the closed shoe apparatus department. What can I say, I adore cute open-toed shoes!

The worship service was absolutely amazing. The men were all extremely respectful to me and the other women that attended with us. They were also very proud of the fact that they had just gotten a new electronic piano and they were able to have it approved before Sunday so that I could play on it…it was really cute to see how excited they were about sharing that piano with me! I also had the opportunity to get used to being called “Sister Angie” about a hundred times by the end of the service…something I’m not accustomed to at all, but it was kind of neat to hear them say it.

The service opened with their own music leader, Brother Evans, and their own choir leading a rousing time of song and worship. If you know who Ron Kenoli is, Brother Evans could of given him a run for his money. He was an incredible worship leader. Their own piano player was amazing…a much better piano player than I am by far. He was able to provide beautiful fill-in whenever Brother Evans would break into prayer or speaking. I was completely astounded by the level of music talent that the prison had.

During our portion of the service, it was fun to get to see a whole new side to our worship leader, Cindy. Our church is a Baptist church and our service, in my opinion, has become somewhat stifled. The entire time I play at our church I feel like I have to be concerned about “am I playing too fast, am I playing too loud, am I filling in too much, am I drawing too much attention to myself, I can’t hear anyone singing…is anyone even out there?” instead of just being able to worship God with a happy heart. At this time, Bill feels like we are still meant to be at our church, but our music program does leave a lot to be desired (again, this is just my opinion.)

I left NCCI’s program feeling recharged, refreshed and blessed by what those men have given back to us during the service. I guess I went there hoping I could be a blessing to them somehow, and left feeling like all that happened was that they had blessed me! I also now have specific faces in my mind that I will be praying for and hoping that they will allow God to enter their lives and change them to be the person that God meant for them to be.

So, have I used the words “amazing”, “incredible”, “refreshing”, and “wonderful” enough times for you?! 🙂 Now, I just need to talk Cindy into going to a NCCI service once a month instead of just twice a year…a monthly recharging sounds great to me!