A little over two years ago we hosted "40 Days of Prayer" with congregations throughout King County. We prayed for different facets of our cities asking, "What is God's Heart for our city?" After the forty days we surveyed participants asking if they felt the Spirit encouraging them to engage in several topics that have an effect on our cities. Incarceration was one the results that rose to the top. But how should we engage the prison system and the incarcerated? One way our staff found was to simply throw a party. Dawn Zern writes very candidly about her experience, we hope you enjoy the post and if you feel led to join the party, please comment below or contact her directly:
“Would you like to hold my baby?” Damian asked me.
“No”, I thought in my head, “I really don’t, thank you.” I have never been comfortable around babies; they tend to leak fluids from every part of their body; and this one already had a steady stream of drool dripping from his little mouth. I answered, “Yes,” with a smile and took the five-month-old from him, attempting to summon any motherly instinct that might exist. I prayed to Jesus that I would be genuinely overjoyed to be holding his child.
Damian had just been released from prison and he was the guest of honor at a party. I had met Damian only twice before; I barely knew him. Time with his son was and is extremely valuable to Damian and he was freely offering to share him with me. Following his release from prison, he signed up for a year-long recovery program at Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, hopeful to complete his GED this year and a begin a life of sobriety.
The Mission, in collaboration with People of the Second Chance, decided to throw a “Prodigal Party” for Damian so he might feel loved and celebrated. The hope is that a little bit of pizza and a few balloons would make a memorable experience for him.
In this world, we are trained to think in a punitive way. “Do the crime, you serve the time” is a common motto. But how does this way of thinking align with the Gospel? Certainly, there is a need for justice and consequences for wrong actions. But what does Jesus say about grace AND justice? Should it be extended to everyone? Even former convicts? Grace isn’t fair. Grace says that we don’t actually get what we deserve. We scream for justice; but we beg for grace.
This past Tuesday, grace looked like a party. There was music, food, friends, family and decorations that included a sign that read, “You Rock Damian.” Grace was me, holding a baby, eating some pizza, and celebrating a prisoner, who’s no longer in prison.
We would love to have you join us in giving grace to others. We want to keep partying and we’d love to share the experience with you. If you like to party, please email Dawn to find out how you can join our next Prodigal Party.