Over 65 inmates were baptized "full immersion" in the State Prison. The following are some of the reactions of the Westwood Team (along with my own) of the prison baptism:
One woman was shaking like leaf, she began to cry and then a smile began to widen her face... "Shug, my garbage stays right here in the water!" After she was baptized she literally rose up out of the water looking free, full of light and energy.
Another woman, looking tough with tattoos all over and a large scar across her face boldly exclaimed at the top of her voice; "JESUS IS MY LORD AND SAVIOR!" I cannot even imagine the pain and past she must have washed away.
Some may think baptism should remain a serious, solemn event. I agree, baptism should always be approached with reverence and contemplation. However, I loved, loved, loved the support and cheers from the witnesses for each and every bold woman who was baptized that day. Cheers, whistles and applause echoed throughout the prison. I feel that was a sweet aroma of worship for our Lord and Savior.
Every age, every size, every background met Jesus face to face that day. I do believe God parted the heavens and said; "Here is my beloved daughter, with whom I am well pleased!"
What an amazing evening! I could feel God smiling down on us and the angelic hosts cheering right along with the women!
I was brought to tears many times, as I watched the women whoop and holler as their friends stepped into the water and then even louder when they saw them come up out of the water!
To see such support and encouragement for each other was something I didn’t expect!
It was amazing to see the transformation from the timid and scared expressions, as they clutched Shug and Julie’s arms, to the pure joy and peace that radiated from them afterward.
The spirit of God was so evident in that gymnasium and the worship from the women was so genuine that it made my heart dance!
I’m getting chills just thinking about it again!
All I can say, is "wow"!!! It was a profound experience for me! And just what I needed! Felt so blessed and privileged to be a part of of it! It moved me in ways I haven't felt in what seems like forever! It truly showed me that joy can be felt no matter what your circumstances are, and no matter where you are! Isn't it ironic that there could be that much joy in a prison??? When most days, most people with everything can't muster enough joy to get through the day??? Including me!!! It gives you perspective! Praise God! And thank you for letting me be a part of this amazing team! It's the best part of my life! And it is truly an honor!
The most moving moment for me was when I asked a woman who is very obese and came in on a wheeled walking cart, if she needed any assistance getting to the baptismal pool responded “No I can do this” She was very determined to get there and in on her own without anyone’s assistance. It clearly meant a lot to her to get there on her own and to be baptized. After she was baptized I saw her beaming as she walked to get her certificate. It was if she had been thinking about it for weeks. It was also the first time in the 6 or 7 months I have known her, that I saw her walk without her cart.
While I was deeply moved by the excitement and emotion of the faces of the women being baptized, I could not help but see the strength God gave Shug and Julie as they fervently asked each woman to declare her belief in Jesus, and then supported each one as she dropped back to immerse her "old self" under the water. Shug and Julie looked like young athletes, strong and never tiring, even though they faced physical challenge. Shug and Julie braced themselves as a team as they "delivered new life"!
From my vantage point at the back of the gym, what struck me was that every time I looked up (after writing the baptism certificates) I saw the women coming out of the water and when they did, everyone that I saw, was wiping their eyes. It could only bring to mind the passage from Revelation 21:4:
‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
And this IS the new promise that these women will now experience in their new life in Christ! What an awesome thing for these women to know!! Truly, the “old order of things” in their lives has passed and they are onto a new life, saved!!
I was stationed at the back of the gym where we wrote baptism certificates to give to the women. As the women came up, they were often crying, laughing, or smiling. What I noticed most was the passion and warmth in their eyes. I saw how completely strong these women are. They are fighters, and even as they were drenched and shivering from the water, I saw confidence in them that they knew they were called by name with a purpose and belonging to our God. it was beautiful to be a part of something so filled with joy and unity, to know that we are all threaded together by our humanity and by God's mercy transforms us, and I felt honored to be in the presence of the women and in the presence of God.
What an amazing night of Baptisms! It was the"super bowl" of baptisms. The excitement and emotions were so evident on each women as they came forward. Some were trembling as they got into the water and others were confident. Their friends calling out words of encouragement and praise as they professed their faith in Jesus Christ. The cheers, clapping and praises for God were almost deafening as each women rose out of the water. It was like they were scoring a touchdown for God! There was so much joy in the room and I think Jesus and the Heavenly Host of angles were cheering too as each women stepped out and declared their faith. I'm thinking God must of smiled and thought "Well done good and faithful servant". I am in awe of mighty work God is doing in the Shakopee prison and feel so blessed to have been there.
My biggest memory is the overwhelming presence of the holy spirit as the women called for baptism came into the room, some with smiles some with scared faces, all hearing the praise, clapping and worship we offered to God and them. God's presence was so powerful in that joy filled room that it was difficult to remember we were in gym in a prison facility, The other memory that will stay with me is the strength, energy, smiles and physical endurance of Shug and Julie during the baptizing of more than 65 women of all shapes and sizes.Their joy and smiles were shared in equal measure from the first to the last person.On Wednesday night asking the women in our bible study to share some of their reflections since being baptized a comment was made that many of the women expressed that God must have been working to have two of the "smallest women" in the prison physically baptize 65 women, and not grow weary,and not have any injuries.
Lastly what I will cherish most is the smiles and words of redemption as I was helping women back to their seats. Women with backgrounds of pain and violence, addictions and bad choices, expressing their sense of purity, newness, freedom, holiness forgiveness, love, worthiness,The old is gone,the new has come- may Jesus continue to bless these special women and continue his good work to completion in each of these women of Christ. Hallelujah!!
Thought of you guys most of the day...and sent up many prayers. I hope the baptism services went wonderfully and that you two were able to “handle” all of the heavy lifting! I also pray for no complications, from a health standpoint.
It boggles my mind what God has been doing in that prison! AWESOME!!! Bless you guys for your servant’s hearts and your obedience and willingness to join in His work.
Hope you are both able to enjoy rest....