Friends of SMTP,
I pray this letter finds you well.
As 2016 comes to an end, I find a part of myself at a loss for words.
In other ways, I find myself humbled to share of what SMTP has experienced.
I prayerfully considered what this letter should say, and in short, I knew it was better to come from someone else.
You have been a great encouragement and Supporter to us at SMTP. We could not of walked through 2016 without you.
Amidst the many programs we are a part of, You have helped share the message of unconditional love with nearly 5000 inmates throughout 5 states.
As we walk in to 2017 together, I leave you with this note from Joanna Lampa, our womens director in Nashville TN.
Because of YOU, and Joanna, and all the amazing Wardens and Program Directors and Churches that have stepped in to this Journey, life changing stores like the one below will continue to be written.
We Love You & We Thank You.
May God Bless You & Keep You.
This year we had the chance to begin a weekly bible study in the women’s jail. After a meeting with the sheriff’s office where we sought out opportunities for more women’s events, we found ourselveswith an invitation to start a program that brought music and teaching every week into a women’s pod within the Nashville jail.
We were, of course, excited, overwhelmed, and ready to take it on. We worked for months on curriculum, teachers, musicians, and a structure to make this program happen.
Years ago, I had a pivotal conversation with a friend who was working fighting against sex trafficking in Asia. She told me that she saw the pimps and traffickers, the clients, the drug dealers, the women, every person on the margins as wildly loved and necessary to the kingdom of God. She told me she saw them as ‘the wild ones’, as those given specific anointings of shepherding and pastoring and faith that had been twisted to a negative throughout their lifetime. She challenged me that they haven’t always been welcomed into the church, but that though the redemption of the wild ones the church would have so much to learn about who God is, and that now is the season for the wild ones to come to Him. Her perspective and stories of God revealing His love for His wild ones in miraculous ways never left me.
As I read my bible from that point on, I began to see the chase and His pursuit of all of us-His wild ones- in a new light. From Rahab, to Joseph, to Paul, to Jacob, to the Samaritan woman, God met us in our darkest and gave us new names right then and there. These were the stories that the we, they, the wild ones of our time needed to hear: The Wild Ones of the Bible.
From this idea came our program in the jail. We have an amazing team of teachers who took the idea of The Wild Ones of the Bible and brought it to life. Every month we do three weeks of teachings and discussions cycling through Rahab, Jacob, and Joseph, and on the fourth week we bring in a musician to have a live concert.
The response to this class has been absolutely overwhelming. A community has been born in our pod. Both we the class leaders and the women who join us count down the days to Tuesday (our class day) every week. In our discussion time we process through grief, loss, addiction, abuse, fears, answered and unanswered prayers, and how amazing it is that God chooses us while we were yet lost to be His. We have girls come with poems they’ve written to share. We have had a girl come to the class who had no idea who Jesus was. We pray together for addictions to be healed. We pray for court dates to go well. We pray for the gaping holes of death and loss to be healed and mothers to be comforted. We’ve had many of our women teach us greater forgiveness through their life than we’ve ever had to know. There is a hunger in this group for truth and healing that I have never experienced before. At the end of every class time we play music, worship mostly. We can almost tangibly feel the heaviness breaking off at the end of the class and each song.
For the concert this month, December, we had a big Christmas event that was open to all of the women’s pods, not just the one our class is held in. Over 175 women came to the show, Toby Mac performed and one of our key teachers, Amanda, spoke on the story of the gospel. There was dancing and crying and laughing and goody bags for everyone. I have never seen such a joyful response as there was that day.
It has felt so far that every class, every event, digs a bit deeper into realness and healing among our group. More than anything else, we feel so deeply how much God loves these women. The Wild Ones are so hungry for the gospel, they are the harvest of this generation, and they have so much wisdom and perspective to give to the church. I am beyond thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this, to be teaching and learning at the same time with such a beautiful group of women. Next year we hope to incorporate more stories of the Wild Ones and bring in many more artists. Thank you for reading, thank you for supporting Send Musicians To Prison and all that accompanies this work.