Today, after a breakfast featuring Game Plan for Life author Joe Gibbs, we loaded up and headed over the the Central Florida Reception Center. It’s a prison facility when inmates come in for a few weeks and then are processed out to facilities where they complete their sentences. During the breakfast, where Gibbs spoke to about 1000 people, out tech team took a truck with audio and musical gear out to the prison. We were working in conjunction with John Watson and 4Given Ministries.
Gibbs, 3-time Superbowl winner and 3-time Sprint Cup winner, was to finish speaking at the breakfast, sign a few autographs, and then come to the prison, where he would speak to the inmates following music led by Doug Pierce and Socrates Perez.
After a lengthy screening process, they were cleared, and it began to rain. Plan A was to set up on the basketball courts in the yard. Plan B was to set up under the yard’s pavilion, if it threatened rain. Plan C was to set up inside the chapel. Plan C was a last resort in case of rain because the chapel only seated about 200, while the yard would have anywhere from 750-1500 inmates. It was raining pretty hard, so the tech team began to set up in the chapel.
But once inside, the wether began to clear. They did not know that because they were inside without windows. By the time I got there with my boss and our staff writer, there was no rain. We quickly discussed whether it was possible to move the gear outside. That is not an easy task. It was a ground stacked D&B line array with a Yamaha M7CL, monitors, cables, power and a full band. But the tech team (Dave, Derrick, and Simon) set to work. We all, including inmates, grabbed gear and hustled out to the pavilion. Quickly set up and plugged in.
The band got about a 3 minute sound check, and they started to play. The mix took shape during the first couple of songs. The guys in the yard really got into the music. In a little while, Gibbs arrived and spoke to the crowd. The weather, as seen right, stayed overcast but the rain held off.
At the end of the message, the crowd was led through a simple prayer of salvation. Many indicated their commitment, but it wouldn’t be until a later chapel service that we would find out who made decisions. 300 inmates came to the afternoon chapel and 175 of those indicated they had asked Jesus into their hearts during the event! Many have asked to be baptized.
I liked the breakfast event. It was great to see a sold out room with many who are not associated with our church in attendance, but nothing compared to seeing people who have made some serious mistakes be told that God forgives, and salvation can be theirs. If I had to choose, I would go to the prison every time.