Home > op-ed > Guest blogger: Anne Lau Choy on prison ministry

Guest blogger: Anne Lau Choy on prison ministry

May 2, 2007

I volunteered as a chaplain at the Santa Clara County Elmwood jail’s Correctional Center for Women in Milpitas for a year and a half. I led a weekly Bible study and prayer group and then would go door to door, praying with whoever wanted. I was in a medium security section with individual cells housing 1 or 2 women.

Initially it scared me to interact with them and broke my heart to see people being treated like animals. About 98% of women in jail come from abusive childhoods and are on drugs. There is no pretense about needing God when you are in jail. The most basic message of the gospel, that Jesus loves you and offers forgivingness, is life and life changing. Somehow the gospel doesn’t always seem as powerful in our local churches. At the jail, I got to witness the power of God. I was deeply blessed!

We need to do hands on ministry, not just out of obedience, but to see Jesus and the power of the gospel. Jesus says when we feed the hungry, we do it to him.

I have new questions and concerns about our society and the church. How do we care for those in need? Do followers of Jesus Christ make a difference in our communities for the better or is there little change? What happens to the mentally ill? Many inmates are but prisons are not equipped to offer them help. How can we care for the mentally ill in appropriate and loving ways? What happens to the mentally ill in Asian communities and how does the church play a part in that or not? In this season of Eastertide, how is the body of Christ offering the hope of the resurrection to those in need?

I met a few Asian American women in jail and some of their family. Several were Christians who did not want their church or communities to know. I am saddened and yet know the reality that in the midst of this great need, the Asian American Christian community is the last place people would turn to for help. Reaching out to the church would lead to shame and greater isolation.

May our churches truly become the body of Christ led by our Lord.

Rev. Anne Lau Choy
Asbury United Methodist Church, Livermore CA

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