Since I have been given the position of Chaplain at the Milwaukee County Jail, my areas of responsibility have increased. One of these responsibilities is the distribution (upon the request from inmates) of published materials that are donated to the jail by various religious organizations. Since the jail is a government facility, I am required to distribute the materials we have without prejudice. If we have it on the shelves in the chaplain's office and it's requested, it must be delivered.
This situation had resulted in an interesting dilemma for me when I was asked to fill the requests for the Muslim community in the jail, i.e. Qurans, prayer towels and other Islamic reading materials. However, God showed me that I could still be a light. As a matter of fact, delivering Islamic materials upon request could actually be a strategic position to be in.
Here's how it happened. Since according to my schedule, I am only required to be at the jail once a week on Thursdays, if someone puts in a request on a Friday, I do not get it for almost a week. If there is a mix up in the mail system and I don't get the request by the next Thursday, two weeks go by. This happened to two Muslims in one of the pods, they both requested Qurans and prayer towels. Because I can't use their names, I'll call them “A” and “B” in this story.
I walked into the pod for another reason two weeks after they had sent in their requests. They both came up to me and “A” was angry! Very loudly so virtually everyone in the pod could hear, he complained that since I was a Christian chaplain I was ignoring their requests. I just smiled and told him that I had not received anything, but I would bring the materials the next time I came, on Thursday. All he said was, “You better!” and “B” said nothing.
Instead of waiting until Thursday of the following week, I decided to make a special trip to the jail on Monday specifically to give the men their materials. When I gave the materials to them, “A” said, “It's about time”, grabbed the stuff and walked away. “B” said, “Hey, man, you made a special trip to deliver this to us, thanks! By the way, you lead a Bible study in this pod every Thursday. Can anyone come? Can I come?” “B” saw something that he didn't find in his religion: love.
So now whenever I get a request for materials that are false and filled with deception, I ask the Holy Spirit to give me the words to say and the actions that might open a heart and mind to His truth.
"In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."