I always thought it was extremely cool that Peter Nixon of the late, lamented Sursum Corda does prison ministry. I think it's very important work but it requires quite a bit of courage to do. Now he's written an article about his ministry and admits he also had fears about it:
But it was a call I resisted for a long time. I was afraid, but my fears actually had little to do with my physical safety. I was more worried about losing face, of being open to men who might take advantage of that openness. I also worried that differences in race or class would make it impossible for us to find common ground. Lacking any obvious skills for this kind of work, I had to trust that God would give me what I needed. Over time Iíve gradually become more comfortable being inside jails and prisons and spending time with the people that live in them. ...
Prisoners may be one of the closest analogues in our society to the lepers of Jesusí time. As Jesusí contemporaries feared disease, we fear the social pathologies that afflict many of those behind bars. Increasingly we seem to have given up on the possibility of rehabilitation and are content simply to keep offenders away from our communities for as long as possible.
But if we are to be followers of Christ, we need to challenge that worldview. Like Jesus, we must be willing to confront our fears, to seek out the lost and the exiled, and to offer them the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation. And with more than 2 million Americans behind bars, we need a lot more workers for this harvest.