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Somerset County Jail

May 26 2021

I have often said that Maine's Somerset County Jail is my favorite jail I've ever been in.  The chapel is clearly a high priority, as it has its own space, where many similar facilities treat chapel as an 'extra' and squeeze services into libraries, classrooms, or even common rooms.  Not only that, but the chapel is beautiful, with stained glass faux-windows painted onto the cement block walls.  The paintings themselves were done by inmates over the years.  And, right on the floor by where I perform are the letters SCJ standing for Somerset County Jail; but also, I'd like to think, welcoming the Supreme Court Jester to the chapel.

It has been a year and a half since I've been there, due of course to the covid-19 pandemic.  We did have visits scheduled for last autumn, but had to cancel those dates as the pandemic got worse and worse.  Finally, things are improving to the point where I was able to return last weekend, although I did have to wear a mask through all three show: one each for the  women, men, high risk men.  The mask wasn't a huge challenge until I was doing a rouitne where I stand on a balance board, juggle two balls in my right hand, spin a lasso in my left, and hold a spinning plate on a stick in my mouth.  I tried to place the mouth stick in my mouth only to find my mask still there.  I had to restart, but couldn't get the trick.  In the second and third shows I remembered to remove the mask for this trick.

When the first and larger gorup of men arrived in the chapel, there was an inmate who had seen me perform there three previous times.  Apparently people will go to great lengths to catch my show!  Unfortunately, it's more likely that he is a repeat offender.  What's funny, though, is the sense of connectedness he seemed to feel, having been the only one there who 'knew' me.  

I had a different closing routine for each service.  For the women, I did my story-illusion about the woman who washed Jesus' feet with her tears.  For the first group of men, I did my illusion-story of the theif on the cross, which is a routine that goes back 30 years!  I intended to do this again for the final group of men, but it takes longer to reset than the 10 minutes I had between services.  This final show ended with my shackle escape and a discussion of Paul's words, "Wretched man that I am, who can set me free... Thanks be to God through Jesus who sets us free."  In each show there was time to use these closing pieces to explain a bit about the grace of God, and all three audiences were so present: no one was trying to create distractions, looking around bored, or whispering with friends.  Several did seem to be deeply moved, maybe even to tears. 

As much as I've missed performing at the rate I was used to prior to Covid, I realize this time of many fewer shows was a good opportunity to work on my presentation and ministry in ways I hadn't in quite some time.  Consequently, these shows were much better and the connection with each audience was deeper than I've experienced in recent years (with  a few exceptions.)  

A Few Testimonies Minimize

 

The presentation was fun and encouraging... The gospel message was clear and encouraging. I purchased your book and just finished it. Your scope is broad and again encouraging. May God continue to bless your ministry. I will encourage others to read your book. -Parishioner of a local church

"Hey, I  wanted to say that was a great message in chapel today! It touched something:) thanks for doing it!" -High School Student  

"We are so grateful that you brought your amazing ministry back to our church this year... The Gospel message you bring applies to all!  It is such a positive, valuable work that you do."  -Coordinator of Christian Ed. UCC Church

"There's no questioning it. This is powerful stuff. It's extremely touching at times, never less than entertaining, and I see a lot of sincere love for Jesus in you guys."  -Dwight Lilies, song writer

The Lord has given you a wonderful window through which to present the Gospel!   - Field Director of Alliance Missions to Paraguay

"What a wonderful ministry to both children and adults.  In past years it has been a struggle to arrange programing that would hold the attention of all ages, but also challenge each heart with God's gift of Salvation.  Thank you for sharing your ministry."  -Sunday School Sup't.

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