An evening of revival and prayer at a local prison doesn’t just happen. For days, weeks, months, and even years, God had been laying the groundwork led to this hot and windy night. Two years ago, The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI) began in the Hutchinson Correctional Facility with nine students. Around that same time, God was placing a call for prayer and revival on my heart. Not long after that, Matt Thomas, a man with a powerful testimony from his own time behind bars, became a World Impact ministry partner. Matt now runs a ministry called Firm Foundations for ex-offenders. All of this—along with two TUMI students, Abe and Randy, who were transferred to the East Unit—led to this night in the yard of their East Unit where we hosted the revival. With a team of 20 volunteers from World Impact and ministry partners of Firm Foundations, we went into the prison to partner with Abe, Randy and their church inside the walls.
We quickly set up the sound system, cookies, and soda. We didn’t know how many inmates would attend, so we optimistically prepared for all 500 men. When they were released to the yard, 100 inmates were eager to greet us and drink the cold Pepsi on such a hot afternoon. In the yard where we met were was a group of Asatru and Wiccans gathering for their worship and men actively working out. But we were confident that the Lord’s presence was with us and the distractions would be silenced. We even saw some of the men who were working out walk up to the fence and listen.
After some worship led by Ben Wray and my wife Angie, we had two dynamic testimonies from Abe and Randy. Abe’s story in particular touched me. He initially was locked up around the age of 18. He spent his first 15 years of incarceration on the run from the Lord, but when he finally hit rock bottom, the Lord spoke to him: “Will you give me another chance?” When he heard the Lord’s voice, Abe finally surrendered and was radically changed.
This led to a clear Gospel presentation while incorporating his testimony from Matt Thomas. During the altar call, a group of 20 to 30 men came forward either to receive Christ or rededicate their lives to the Lord. As they circled up, praying arm in arm, Abe took the lead and shared more about following Jesus.
Following a second message from Coach Larry Allen, we came together for a time of prayer. This time, about 40 inmates locked arms and we led them in prayer of repentance and forgiveness. Men cried out to the Lord with tears and the desire to be set free. The presence of God was so clear and powerful!
As we said goodbye, I could see smiles of joy all around. One inmate told me that this time was the happiest he had ever been in his whole life. My lasting memory from this evening was a few of the inmates singing “I Can Only Imagine” during worship. The reality is that these guys live in a dark place and carry so many burdens. Yet, for that night, they were able to experience the presence of God in a tangible way. It was a definite foretaste of heaven.
A total of 125 people (including volunteers) attended the prison revival night. We drank around 450 cans of soda. Thirteen inmates prayed to receive Christ for the first time and another 20 rededicated their lives. Our next steps are to work on following up with these new believers.
Please pray that the seed of the Gospel would grow deep in their lives. Pray that this will be the start of more outreaches and revivals in our cities and prisons. Amen!
Matt Penner is World Impact's National Prayer Director.