by Kirk Smith, FFBC Church-Crusade Coach
Wakulla Correctional Institution is a Faith and Character Based Facility in the Florida Panhandle. Faith and Character Based (FCB) is not shorthand for Christian; but it does represent a culture set apart from the standard prison environment. An FCB facility has extensive Chaplaincy and Individual Betterment programs, and being assigned to one of these prisons is considered a privilege by most inmates.
In Wakulla CI, one group of the population is housed in the Protective Management Group. This segment of the population is made up of inmates that might not be safe if housed in the general population. While it does not apply to all, it is safe to say that a large portion of the PM Group in this prison is transgender. This is the group that God chose to use to work on my heart during this crusade.
I had pulled a hamstring in the previous game, so when it came time to face this unit I was not going to be on the field. Normally, that is just fine; I love spending time talking with men on the bleachers. But I was not looking forward to this game or spending time on the sidelines with this group. To be honest, I find it hard to even talk to them in general.
Assistant Warden Comerford is a special lady. She is a Christian woman who has the ability to meet these inmates where they are – without judgment or disdain. After the previous game, while we waited for the PM Group to come out to the yard, I spent almost an hour talking with Ms. Comerford and she tried to help me understand how to reach them. I realized I needed a head adjustment; I can’t understand them, and I have nothing to say to them. But God has put me in this yard with them, so He must have something in store for us.
As the game ended, Ms. Comerford called me over and said, “Here’s your chance.” We turned the corner and behind the building she introduced me to Joshua. Joshua looked right at me and said “I love God. I don’t want to disappoint Him, but I know I am.” While the rest of the population went inside, Joshua remained behind, and we spoke for 30 minutes. Actually, Joshua spent 30 minutes talking with the Holy Spirit because things came out of my mouth I didn’t recognize. This had to be God speaking through me to reach Joshua.
Before we parted ways, Joshua stated that he was not going to continue on the path to gender transformation. He is “stuck” between being a man and a woman, yet he believes the best way he can honor God is to acknowledge his behavior is sinful and stop the process. Joshua is scared – there is no portion of the population that is going to be happy with this decision. His faith will be tested, as will his resolve.
I’m not the same man that walked into Wakulla CI that day. I won’t pretend I have the answers to this current challenge facing the church, or society in general. I don’t know that I have figured it all out in my own head. But I do know this – the Lord knew I was going to pull a hamstring, He knew where I would be when it happened, He put Ms. Comerford in my path, and He made sure Joshua was in that yard for me to meet. I thought I needed a head adjustment – God provided a heart adjustment!