December at the Macomb County Jail is always an anxious, but glorious time! We, at Gateway To Glory, understand what the inmates are going through as they are not able to be with their families, especially their children. That is why we try to make as many provisions as possible to keep up the moral and to keep the focus (the one and only true focus) on the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We show the love of Christ by encouraging each individual to get the focus off of themselves and their current situations, and get it on the greatest gift, the gift of Jesus. Jesus is truly able to do abundantly above and beyond all they could ever think, right where they are.
Gateway shares the joy of Christ’s birth in many different ways during this season, from Caroling to the Max (Christmas Carols and Scripture reading to those in maximum security), to participating in the Angel Tree program, to packing and passing out 1200 Christmas Bags (inmates and staff receive bags stuffed full of God’s word and goodies), to holding a Christmas Day morning service on each and every floor of the jail (the tower, annex, rehab and mental health)! It is truly a month packed with activities and ministry!
Regarding the Christmas Day services, the response from the 8 volunteers that helped make this happen, was that they witnessed a powerful move of the Holy Spirit the likes they had never seen before. I would comment too, by saying Jesus Christ was lifted up and glorified, just like He was 2000 years ago that glorious Christmas morning. The same way His birth was first announced to a bunch of dirty low down shepherds, so it was announced to the inmates at the Macomb County Jail.
Something very interesting happened during the Christmas celebration that showed both “arms” of the Gateway Ministries in action. This event involved the manager of the men’s aftercare house, a man who had become a resident (for approx. 24 hours), and one of Macomb County’s finest.
A man by the name of “Jim” came to our transition house on a Sunday afternoon (Dec 17 – 1 day before the Christmas Bag pack). Within a couple of minutes, the house manager, Mike noticed something very disturbing about the man and immediately notified me. Mike informed me that I would be meeting “one of ‘Jim’s’ personalities” the next night when the men were scheduled to pack the Christmas bags. “Jim” never made it to the bag pack because Monday afternoon he was confronted by Mike on account of some very unusual and erratic behavior he was exhibiting. “Jim” responded with a blow to Mike’s eye and took off running down Elizabeth Street towards the jail. He was definitely running the right direction, because within a minute of Mike’s phone call to 911, the police picked up and arrested “Jim” for assault. He ended up back in custody at the jail.
Hats off to our manager, Mike, who exercised self-control and did not retaliate. Proverbs 19:11 says: “Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs” and Proverbs 29:11 tells us “A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back”.
The next day arrived (Tuesday) and it was time to pass out the Christmas bags to all the inmates at the jail. Guess who was on my team as one of the volunteers? Yep, you guessed it, Mike with his big, black eye! As we entered the Holding Cells for the inmates, I came across a familiar face, “Jim”. I told Mike he could give a bag to that particular inmate. Mike approached the cell, “Jim” shouted, “What are YOU doing here?” Mike calmly responded, “I’m here to tell you Jesus loves you and Merry Christmas. Here is your Christmas Bag!” The expression on “Jim’s” face was priceless! It was truly an expression of someone who had “hot burning coals of shame” just heaped upon his head!
I Peter 3:9; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.
We’d say “Jim” has his just rewards and Mike has a big blessing coming his way!
Merry Christmas and Blessing in the New Year!
Chaplains Steve and Robin Malek