We could hear the heavy chains clanking on the floors and the shuffling of feet as the four Death Row women were escorted by several security guards. The rest of the prison population was on “lock down” during their movement from Death Row to the visitation room. As the women tried to figure out where they were going and what this was all about, they were asked to sit down on the front row seats. One of the ladies looked at us and exclaimed, “You are the family that my daughter told me about! She heard you share at the Gadsden prison where she is incarcerated!” As she began realizing that we were now going to sing for them, she began wiping her tears. It was truly amazing to see how God kept softening her heart throughout the next two hours.
This was the first time that our family was given the privilege to share in this way to those on Death Row. There are only five women on Death Row in the whole state of Florida and four of these five chose to come out. We know this was an experience that only God could orchestrate, and it was a tremendous blessing to share Jesus with these women. The warden said that something like this had never happened in this prison before.
After the inmates were seated, the officers were given permission to remove their heavy body chains, but they were still bound by their handcuffs and heavy shackles on their feet. We began our service with these four women, three officers, the warden, assistant warden, and a dear local couple who came along to assist with our little girls. I knew it was going to be an emotional two hours when I saw two of the ladies begin crying during our very first song. God’s spirit began bringing life to each of these women facing the death sentence.
When our little girls came up to sing, each of the women were crying, and I noticed that both of our little girls were struggling with their own emotions. They began blinking back tears and they turned around to look at me. I assured them that everything was alright, and I asked them to keep singing. After we sang, “Daddy, Carry Me,” we shared how God created each of these Death Row women with the same “little girl” innocence and desires that our girls have. God’s desire was for them to also be cherished, protected, and treasured by their earthly fathers, as well as by the other men in their lives. I’m sure that most (if not each) of these women never experienced this kind of earthly love, but instead faced much pain, abuse, and loss. Desperation, hopelessness, and unfathomable suffering and pain drove each of them to do things they never thought they would do. When they weren’t cared for in the way God intended, His heart was broken for them. We shared how God desires to heal their hurts and to carry them through each painful event as His beloved daughters. Their tears continued to flow throughout our whole time together.
The song “Daddy, Carry Me” that we sang for the death row ladies. (This clip was recorded at a church service.)
My husband, Duane, clearly shared the plan of salvation as well as spoke on the strongholds of fear, bitterness, and anger. We were fairly confident one of the ladies had received salvation, but there were two of them who seemed a bit more reserved and resistant to us. However, at the conclusion of our time together, both of these women wanted to pray to ask Jesus into their hearts and to begin walking the journey towards healing with Him. Praise the Lord! Please pray that they will remain faithful to God and walk as women of faith, firmly standing on the principles of God’s word.
After our time together, someone gave us the greatest affirmation they could ever give to us. They told us that it seemed as if WE really weren’t sharing, but we were just there for God to speak through because His presence was so real. This was exactly what our family had been praying for God to do. In fact, just a few hours before, the state representative’s wife called us and prayed with me over the phone. She prayed for God to do a mighty work through us and that His words and ways would be clearly communicated to these hurting women.
Do these women deserve to be punished for the horrendous crimes they committed and the choices they made? Absolutely! However, they have a soul just like each of us, and God, in His great love and mercy, allows everyone to have a chance to be forgiven and to follow Him. I know there are many people who would argue and disagree with us about this. But we are ALL undeserving and unworthy of forgiveness. We need to realize where we would be apart from God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness. God clearly states that our own works without Jesus counts for nothing. We don’t deserve forgiveness and eternal life any more than these Death Row ladies do! Unfortunately, many “Christians” are the first ones to condemn others and withhold the same grace that they have received for their own sins.
At the conclusion of our service time together, we spent some time sitting and talking with these Death Row women. We didn’t see horrible, monstrous women who looked like they had committed these appalling and hideous sins. We were able to see in these women’s eyes the deep hurts of incredible pain and loss, and to see them as broken little girls, crying out from years of living with horrendous abuse. Our little girls shook their hands in spite of the handcuffs, which were a bit daunting for them. This brought tears AND smiles from the ladies. Later on, we had a number of questions to answer as our girls tried to understand why these women had all the chains and needed to be tied up. In fact, it has left such an impact on them that they now continue to pray for “the ladies with all the chains.”
We were thankful that we didn’t know about the specific crimes they committed before our time together. Every sin is evil and separates us from God, and although different sins have different consequences, in God’s economy, we can all be forgiven and united as brothers and sisters in Christ. These women have all been deeply hurt and wounded by others and, although we don’t justify their sinful actions, we know that “hurt people hurt people.” We learned that one of these women was abused for many years by her father and grandfather and then rejected by another man later on in life. This same woman told me, “If you ever get a chance, please hug the warden for me and thank him for allowing your family to come. I learned so much today…it was a tremendous blessing to have your family here!”
In Luke 7:44-48, Jesus talked to one of the religious Pharisees who had the same attitude that is, unfortunately, so prevalent in our churches today. They were talking about an adulterous (but repentant!) woman. “And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.”
I wonder if we don’t love God as much as we should, because we don’t realize how much WE have been forgiven. If we would realize this, we would want everyone to to be able to experience this great gift from God, instead of having the attitude that they don’t deserve to be forgiven. Do we ever think of what we would be capable of committing if we had experienced what many others have went through? Who are we to “cast the first stone”? These dear women have the wonderful opportunity to love MUCH as they brokenly bring their tears, their hurts, their crushed hearts, and their broken dreams to the feet of Jesus. Why would we choose to do anything less, when we take inventory of all we have received? Jesus spent much of His time with sinners, but He disregarded those who were “fools,” (those who aren’t repentant of their sins or aren’t willing to obey what God’s word says) and those who were caught in the trap of Pharisaical “religion.”
What are the “chains” you are wearing? When God looks into your heart does He hear the loud clanking of your “religious” chains as you drag them around while convincing yourself that you are free? Do you justify your sins because they aren’t as bad as someone else’s, or do you allow God’s word to judge you? Do you see yourself as deserving to be on “Death Row” apart from the grace of God that you are so unworthy of? It must be appalling
to God to see that many of the men and women in prison, and even those on Death Row, have a greater level of spiritual freedom than many within our churches.
“For God will break the chains that bind his people and the whip that scourges them, just as he did when he destroyed the army of Midian with Gideon’s little band.” (Isaiah 9:4)
~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)
(To receive our FREE bi-monthly E-newsletter with our blogs, ministry schedule, and prayer corner, sign up here.)