So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. -- 1 Corinthians 3:7 (NIV)
Five years ago, I awakened from a dream at 3:30 a.m.
In the dream, I had been singing a song about freedom in Jesus to a group of inmates at a maximum-security prison. They were standing, singing along, some crying, some laughing with hands in the air.
The last strains of the song were echoing in my head even as I dragged myself from the futon in my rented apartment and went to the bathroom:
"I may not have my freedom, but somehow I don't mind
"Because the promises of Jesus are the only ties that bind."
I don't usually remember much from dreams. This one was different. I remembered every word of that song and felt the Lord urging me to write it down.
A week later, the music for those lyrics leaped into my head and, as I played it for the first time, I wondered what God had in mind. I recorded the song, put it on a CD with some other songs I'd written and sold several to raise money for charity.
The seed was planted.
I knew some people who were involved in the Kairos ministry, which brings the love of Jesus to prisoners around the world. I'd been thinking of getting involved myself. Perhaps this was God's nudge in that direction, I thought.
A year went by and I was, indeed, on a Kairos team heading into Central Prison in Raleigh, NC. I mentioned the song to the team leader. He liked the song, he said, but it wasn't on the "approved list" and couldn't be used.
Meanwhile, Hope, a friend from church, had listened to the CD. She immediately fell in love with "The Only Ties that Bind" and felt it would be perfect for Kairos. But the only way it could be used was if the leader of a Kairos weekend chose it as the theme song. Usually the theme songs were well-known hymns or Christian songs everyone knows.
She worked on Kairos teams and, two years later, was chosen to lead the Kairos team for spring 2007. She didn't need to think twice about the theme song she would use.
The seed was watered.
Because this Kairos was going to Women's Prison, I couldn't be on the inside team. I became a kind of honorary outside team member, helped them learn the song and waited to see what God would do.
Hope knew the rules. No man had been on the inside team for women's Kairos before. But she felt called to make the attempt. I was added to the list of "food handlers" for the final day of the weekend.
After making sandwiches and dishing out baked beans in the kitchen for a while, I sat at the helpers table in the main Kairos meeting room. Then, without fanfare, Hope brought me to the podium, where she introduced me as the one who had written the theme song. She said her vision was that I sing it with them today.
They had never heard the story of how the song was written, or of my own vision. As I told the story, there were gasps of amazement and some tears.
Then we did the song for 35 inmates and another 50 volunteers and guards.
They were standing, singing along, some crying, some laughing with hands in the air.
It was the dream, the vision, delivered in God's way, in God's perfect timing.
Several women told me afterwards how they were touched by the message. One said, "I'll probably never leave this place. And I've had a very hard time dealing with that. But for the first time, I know I am truly free in Jesus and everything will be OK."
Smiling through her tears, she hugged me.
The song lyrics were printed out and distributed to everyone in the prison, including four women on Death Row. Those four were allowed to hear the song on a portable CD player. By the time I left, even the guards were thanking me for bringing them God's blessed song.
And God isn't finished giving the increase.
I learned a few days later that the song may be added to that "approved list" I mentioned before.
That would make God's message available to 50,000 prisoners, worldwide, every year.
God has given you a seed.
Don't you think it's time you planted it?
Al Boyce is a former writer and reporter for The Associated Press. He lives in Raleigh, NC, where he now writes for God.
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