Change is often so challenging. How do we go about making this work? What’s this going to cost me? What if it doesn’t work? What if people don’t like me?
Those concerns are reasonable. But think how you’d feel if you’re a man for whom education isn’t readily accessible? What if you’ve been a Christian for a relatively short time? What if your formal education has been limited?
Those and undoubtedly countless other questions have flitted back and forth in the minds of a number of Winebrenner’s former and current students: the Men of Marion. Yet they—men incarcerated at MCI (Marion Correctional Institution)—are dedicated to giving their all to the opportunities available to them through Winebrenner Seminary’s Pastoral Training Institute.
Eighteen men are currently risking their standing in their community to step forward and commit themselves to change. Major change. Humble and persistent change. God-honoring and God-serving change. These men are publicly committing themselves to grow in their spiritual understanding and ministry in their setting.
The Men of Marion have clearly heard the voice of God, “My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me’” (Psalm 27:8a). Obediently they have chosen to agree, “And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming’” (Psalm 27:8b NLT).
Against daunting odds, these men have cooperated to dedicate themselves to serve the Lord as Scripture says, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Luke 10:27 NLT).
Each Wednesday they sit in a crowded room with other men they haven’t previously known. Yet together they listen, respond and rejoice together in the Lord. They challenge each other in times of discussion and yet compliment those sharing helpful insights. Together their discussions take them deeper into their relationship with Christ and help them care about challenges others are facing.
Together they have committed themselves to join the Apostle Paul as he says, “And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God” (Ephesians 3:18-19 NLT).
The Men of Marion have surrendered themselves to God’s calling to serve him, whether on-the-outs when they’re paroled or in MCI. God’s men are committed to God’s ministry and God’s Word which are never confined. Isaiah reminds us, “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it” (Isaiah 55:11 NLT).
By Dr. Linda Draper
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash