31 Orange Jumpsuits – New Beginnings

31 Orange Jumpsuits - New Beginnings

Photo illustrated by Gilles Gonthier

A guest post by Keith Wommack, Committee on Publication for Texas

It was 3:30 in the afternoon. A squirrel rested, unaware he was about to be an afternoon snack for an approaching owl. So, I started my rental car, which startled the squirrel, and he dashed to safety.

My actions saved one, yet, irritated another. Then I wondered about the actions that had landed the young people, I was about to meet, into trouble. What had caused them to act or react?

I was sitting in my rental in the parking lot of a baseball field near the Barbara Culver Juvenile Detention Center in Midland, Texas. I had arrived early and decided to take thirty minutes to collect my thoughts, a little spiritual reasoning.

I was told I would be at the Center for about an hour. Yet, I had no clue about how many people I’d be speaking with. Would it be two or three? Maybe it would be four of us, around a table.

I pulled into the center’s lot, parked, and announced myself into the speaker. The door opened and I walked through the metal detector.

A guard brought me to the classroom where I’d be speaking. I asked, “How many will be here?” He said, “Thirty-one.” I thought, “Wow, you have trouble talking to your own two kids.”

At the front of the empty classroom I paused to get my bearings. My prayer went something like this, “Well, here I am. Thank you for leading me, animating me. Show me how I express your wisdom. Keep reminding me that each one that comes into this room belongs to you. Please, put your words in my mouth.”

Then the procession began. Thirty-one of them, hands behind their backs, slowly made their way to rows of chairs. Thirty-one orange jumpsuits. Four young women. Twenty-seven young men. All in their teens, except two boys, age ten.

Thirty-one. Not one smile. Not one hello. Their body language screamed, “Disdain.”

I was introduced: “This is Mr. Wommack. He’s here to talk with you. Listen up. If you make a noise, disrupt, slump in your seats, or are in any way are out of order you will lose all privileges the rest of the day.” I felt like the vulnerable squirrel.

A quick battle took place in my thought. “What chance do you have in helping these kids? They’re just losers. You’ll never get their attention, don’t kid yourself!”

An angel message took over, “Are they really losers? Haven’t you been learning that each child of Life, God, is really spiritual, and spiritually dynamic? Each expresses the dignity of Life?”

I began to speak, trying to look past the orange. I told them about myself. Then I was lead to challenge them. I challenged them to be a thermostat, not a thermometer. A thermometer just rises or falls according to what is happening around it. However, a thermostat, on the other hand, regulates.

I challenged them to be healers, spiritual healers. I explained that by what they will learn in their spiritual journeys they could be regulators, thermostats. They could turn situations higher, holier. Everyone they will meet would be happier and healthier because of having met them.

I told them that Peter, one of Jesus’ followers, healed others when his shadow fell on them. Just so, the shadow or powerful mental weight of their growing spiritual maturity and understanding would help others. The more weight they put into the side of good, the more good they will do. They will use laws, spiritual laws, which heal minds and bodies.

The next hour and a half flew by. What started out as 31 orange jumpsuits, turned into 31 precious friends. They smiled, they laughed, and they clapped.

At the end, a young man asked, “What is it like to come in here and change someone’s life?” This dear one, when he first walked in, looked like the most defiant and difficult. The way he sat, arms folded and scowl on his face, I thought he’d be the last to ask such a question. Yet, what a question!

The smile on his face and tenderness in his eyes told me that he was taking up my challenge.

As I drove away from the Center, I was filled with a spiritual sense of life. I felt and understood that each life was a blessing. Life doesn’t have to be vulnerable or confined. Life is about new beginnings. We have choices.

Find Keith on Twitter:@TexasCS
Related post: 5 Simple Things to Help You be a Healer

About the author

Guest We are pleased to present Notes from the Field authors, who are assistant committees and church members in the Southern California region; and Notes from The Mother Church authors, who are Committees from the United States and around the world, as well as the Federal Committee on Publication office.


  1. Robin Collins says

    Thank you, Keith.

    Sounds like, when you were went to the Detention Center you were going to Church, “the structure of Truth and Love” (a portion of its definition in the book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures). And there were God’s kids!

  2. Pamela says

    Wow Keith, that was wonderful. Reminded me of the time I worked on the Los Angeles County Institutional Committee. We went to the prisons, detention centers, and rehabs. The changes I witnessed during those times were wonderful. It gave me a clearer sense of God’s loving care for all mankind. Lives were renewed and healed. It was an experience I shall never forget not will you forget this one. Thanks for sharing this, it made my heart sing.

  3. Chuck says

    Thanks for sharing that wonderful experience, Keith. I especially like your prayer in the empty classroom. That is a great way to approach any meeting, service, presentation, conversation, or other activity. I plan to use it a lot.

  4. Adrienne says

    What a lovely reminder that everyone is enfolded in God’s care and love.
    I have often thought about some of the worst sounding criminals we’ve heard about on the news as individuals that have never been told that God loved them! And I like to keep that thought in mind for them. My prayer is…”some daily good to do to Thine, for Thee…”
    And thank you for the blessed work you do for these starving people that so need our love and care!

  5. Louise Johnson says

    Thanks Keith – I will share this with my Instituitions Com. This can be applied in so many ways.


  6. Linda says

    Thank you so much, Keith. Your story really touched me and I’d love to share it with my Sunday School class.

  7. Judith says

    So enjoyed reading this! Thank you so very much for sharing this experience and doing it in such a moving way.

  8. Patricia says

    Keith, that was beautiful and so touching. It brought tears to my eyes. I am a C.S. chaplain at a nearby prison and can definitely relate to what happened there. It was truly inspiring to them and to me.

  9. Marc Thompson says

    Thank you for sharing this experience Keith. I’m sure it will inspire all who read it. I love examples of how we reach the hearts of others when we speak from our own.

  10. Ann Botts says

    Keith: Thank you for speaking to this precious group of young people. It is so good to know that innocence is always intact. A quality that those incarcerated need to be reminded of. Ann Botts, Banning, CA

  11. Barb Stewart says

    I have been reading at the local Institutions Comm. services for about 6 months and find it one of the most rewarding church activities I have ever done. I can only see the inmates as God’s beloved children. They are so grateful to learn that there is an all powerful God that is LOVE, loving them, always present to help. Several have told how they are sharing this with other inmates, reading S&H, & having healings.