|I Know the Plans... by Samantha Nelson|
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”— Jeremiah 29:11
It was a new day. A new year. January 1, 2009. I passed the microphone to Steve after I had introduced myself and briefly mentioned that we were Illinois transplants and originally from the beautiful mountains of Northern California. I was intentionally vague and not inclined to disclose any really personal information. As I sat listening to Steve describe the ministry of The Hope of Survivors and the issue of pastoral sexual abuse, I was stunned to hear him begin to tell about the different abuses I had endured at various times in my life. “Lord, make him be quiet,” I silently prayed. Steve continued. “Lord, please silence him!” my plea became more desperate. Yet he continued. “Father, make him stop!” Then, after a moment of stillness, I surrendered and said, “Ok, Lord, you must have a purpose in this. It’s ok with me.”
Now, why would I care if Steve shared our story? After all, we have done so numerous times—publicly and privately—on radio, TV and Internet. Our story is no secret. I cared because, this time, I felt vulnerable. This time, I was sitting in a room full of convicted felons—drug dealers, murderers, rapists, child molesters…
Why were we there? On that evening, I wish I knew. You see we had been invited to become volunteers at a prison, helping with the chapel ministry there. It wasn’t something we had thought of doing on our own; we were asked and, after praying about it, we believed we should agree to it. There really wasn’t anything appealing to us about the idea of working with convicted sex offenders, although we certainly understand they need the love and forgiveness Jesus has to offer as much as anyone else. And besides, we surely have more than enough work to do with The Hope of Survivors. Yet there we were, wondering what God had in store for us—and for them—through this turn of events.
Thankfully, it didn’t take long for us to discover the good things God had planned for us in prison ministry. We have been able to go a few times now, and Steve has shared messages of God’s love and hope for a better future. I have shared about our work through The Hope of Survivors. But sharing has not been the biggest blessing for us—it has been seeing the inmates respond to the Holy Spirit and draw closer to God. It has been in seeing their hearts softened by the touch of the Lord. It has been in hearing some of them talk about how The Hope of Survivors has helped them through the sharing of our testimony by enabling them to share their own painful experiences. God knew some of these inmates had experienced pastoral sexual abuse firsthand—either as victims or perpetrators—and needed to hear the truth. Truly, the Lord desires to heal all who will be healed.
We no longer question why we’re there. We know why. We consider it a blessing and honor to be part of this prison ministry. We rejoice when the inmates ask how they can pray for us and for The Hope of Survivors. We no longer think of them in terms of the crimes they’ve committed. They are children of God. They are our brothers in Christ. They are family.
Isn’t it good to know that Jesus died for each of our sins and, if we choose, we can accept the forgiveness He offers (1 John 1:9) and have the following apply to our lives? “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Praise God we can each walk in newness of life, being a new creature in Christ!
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If you are a survivor of pastoral abuse, we would love to hear your story and possibly make it available on this web site for others to read and renew their hope. You can use a pseudonym if you choose and rest assured that all personal information will be kept private and strictly confidential. Please contact us.
Please note: We do not necessarily agree with or endorse all the information contained in the survivor’s stories. We do, however, feel they have some valuable information that could be useful to you in your recovery. It helps to know you’re not alone, that others have shared your pain and have healed, by the grace of God, in their own time and way.