Rikers Island. Ryan Lampa.

October 7, 2013
(photo: Ryan Lampa / Nathan Lee / Miss Scudder / Miss Eaddy)
(photo: Ryan Lampa / Nathan Lee / Miss Scudder / Miss Eaddy)

I asked the Warden of Riker's Island why he thinks the Bible tells us to visit those in prison.  He wasn't sure exactly why, but he told me that when you listen to what God wants you to do, you can step aside and watch His hand go to work.  I was challenged with that statement.  How have I made obeying the Book, which I hold to be true, too technical and more complicated than it needs to be.  At times, I get distracted.  I get deterred from what is really happening and how I should participate.  

The last day Nathan Lee and I were on Riker's Island, we visited the women's prison.  It had been a very smooth morning, we were set up earlier than before and had some time to sit before the music started.  As soon as the first inmate arrived, the room brightened.  I saw all different kinds of women.  There were older hispanic women, to younger caucasian women.  There were loud and proud, quiet and meek.  There were long haired women, short haired women, and everything in between.  I was mesmerized by stories untold in the room.  Nathan began diving into the music.  I was buried in the twisting of the knobs to perfectly blend the vocal into the piano, when I noticed an unusual break between Nathan's lyrics.  I looked up and realized Nathan was emotionally struck.  I then turned my head to realize his music was piercing hearts.  I saw a woman clenching her lyric sheet, eyes closed, fully singing out loud with the chorus of the song.  I saw another woman who's eyes were flooded with tears, seeming as if this was the first time some one really understood where she is.  I saw one woman tell another, "That's Me, That's Me" tying these lyrics directly to her life.  I saw another woman journaling directly to her paper. As the hour unfolded, I saw a full audience of correctional officers, deputies and wardens lining the back wall, soaking up the same message of love, reconciliation, grace and hope.  This music & this time spent....is important.  Nathan puts it "We came to let you know, you are important, and you are not forgotten".  I was reminded how valuable those words are.

I'm glad I didn't miss out. Once again, I was almost caught up in making things too complicated.  I grieve, that times I have blown by opportunities to love and participate in other's lives. I pray that my eyes will be opened to ways I can see and serve more.  I pray I am not caught up in my own job.  I was challenged by the inmates, the Program Directors, and the Warden.  I was enlightened to more of the world moving, breathing, crying and laughing around me.  I was invited in, and I hope I can keep up.

Ryan Lampa