What I Learned While I Served Silently

Two years ago, I began serving inside a juvenile detention center, (after being vetted through references and finger-printed, photographed and LIVE SCANNED at the Sheriff’s Office), because I want the kids who come for Friday night church to know God sees them and God hears them.
I want to say, “God knows all of this and He loves you in spite of it all. Ask Him to show you who He really is and how much He truly cares.” I have so much to say. But, no. I hardly say a word because I am a “second.”

I’m a second.

I learned of my “second” position when the Chaplain over the jail ministry introduced me as “a second,” meaning, I’m a substitute or stand-in. I’m the token woman helper when  “real” servants don’t show up. I’m a stranger to the groups I come along to serve. They don’t know me; therefore, don’t trust me. Yet I show up so the girls living inside jail cells have a female to talk with. But, I serve last after everyone else in the group.

Usually, I serve silently.

At first, I was frustrated as a silent servant, taking a back-row seat to “the real” servants in this ministry tugs at my heart.  God’s given me the desire to crack open the safes in the girls’ souls where they hide their pain. I speak their language, yet, I hardly say a word.
Sometimes I don’t get to speak at all. Our time together is orchestrated into a strict 60-minute block spent listening to a message, and maybe enjoying worship, if someone has musical talent. If time permits, we break into small groups: men and boys, women and girls. Then it’s over. The guards instruct us to prove we still have the 5 pencils we brought into the room and to stand against the wall until we’re released.

Silence is golden.

When you don’t talk, you listen. This is how I heard from the Lord. Then I realized the blessing of serving as a silent partner. Not only do you and I listen carefully, we have time to observe. The view from the back is grand. If you find yourself in last place, the silent partner in the back, please know this: From here, you get a wide-angle picture, a complete composite of faces and postures of the kids in the room.
The picture speaks louder than words. And, instead of thinking about what to ask or how to answer, you get to listen. Instead of flipping pages in your Bible to point out a verse, you can do as I did, use a tiny three-inch yellow pencil to absorb their names, ages, struggles, questions and prayer requests, then squeeze it all out onto a white, lined 3×5 card. There’s nothing shameful about serving by listening. I know it looks and feels like you’re not doing much. But, you are!

And the truly beautiful thing?

If you’re drawn to serving kids detained in juvenile jail, your listening ministry transcends those walls via handwritten letters you mail back to them. I write to each girl by name; answering questions we didn’t have time to answer in person, reminding her of verses and God’s promises, and mostly to remind her she’s remembered and loved. Your voice isn’t stifled when you pen your message personally. (Thank you, Apostle Paul, for the inspiration.)
Serving quietly from behind as a silent partner to the Lord is a good a thing. There’s so much to see from here.
guest-bloggerSally Olson is servant to Jesus, wife to her husband, and mother to her two young adult sons. They live a simple, but dirty, country life on their acreage in the Sierra-Nevada Range. Sally is a writer and blogs about hope at http://www.SallyOlson.Me. Follow Sally on her “Colors of Hope” Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/Colors-of-Hope-1603811883244795/ and Twitter @SallyOWriter, Instagram @SallyOWriter (https://www.instagram.com/sallyowriter/)
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