I recently spent a weekend in the Morrison County Jail. I confess it was not my first time, and I’m confident it won’t be the last. It was a typical jail weekend for me: a lot of singing, a little bit of dancing, plenty of laughter, and tears . . . believe me, there were tears. That’s what generally happens at a REC retreat. If you’ve not heard of it, REC is an acronym for “Residents Encountering Christ,” an offshoot of the TEC (“Together Encountering Christ”) program, modified to accommodate jail inmates.
There are a good number of unsung heroes in central Minnesota, who go into the jails every week to do just as Jesus tells us all to do: “I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.” (Mt. 25: 35-36) The time spent by these folks builds trust and melts hearts, preparing the jail residents for a retreat that can be life-changing. I’m not one of the every-week heroes, although I admire them a great deal. No, I’m a very amateur guitar strummer and singer who was blessed to be part of the music team that weekend.
When I first began working at TEC and REC retreats, I believed it was a sacrifice on my part. I was generously giving back to God for all that God has done for me. Giving back weekends, for goodness’ sake! How very noble of me.
The problem was, I would go home invigorated, recharged, fired up . . . and grateful. I realized that I was receiving tenfold what I’d given. (I have come to refer to this as “God’s Math.”)
REC volunteers are expected to bring food to the retreat. They are also expected to make a modest donation to help with expenses. I, who once patted myself on the back for self-sacrifice, have finally grasped the reality of what God is doing for me—I am entrusted to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ, to help carry on His ministry. To visit the people He deeply loves and longs for. And Jesus accepts my humble gifts. Only one way for me to describe this, good stewards: WOW.
Curt Hanson, Director of Stewardship and Development, Diocese of Saint Cloud