Anyone listening with eyes closed might think it was a group of excited school girls. “I’m going to try this one.” “Oo, I like this one.” “Let me see, too.”
But open your eyes and you’ll find yourself inside the gray walls of a prison—the Iowa Correctional Institution for Women. The lively women are inmates, and they’re clustered around magazine photos, picking out hair styles.
They’ve come for a free haircut, courtesy of Prison Fellowship volunteer Barb McCabe.
Barb isn’t the type to wear her religion on her sleeve. But when she heard of an opportunity to minister to inmates in a practical way, she knew that was for her. Every three months, after a busy day at the shop, she collects a small troupe of other hairdressers and they drive down to the correctional institution.
The first visit, Barb admits, was a bit nerve-wracking: “Prison authorities counted the scissors to make sure we came out with the same number we went in with,” she says.
But today Barb and her assistants are waved on through. They quickly find their way to a basement utility room, which they transform into a bare-bones beauty parlor. A single mirror is hung on the wall; a few straight-backed chairs are set up.
The chairs aren’t padded and they don’t twirl around. But the inmates don’t care. They’re surprised and thankful that Barb comes at all.
” ‘Why are you doing this?’ is the first question they ask,” Barb says. “We tell them because God loves them, and we love them, too.”
As the women wait their turn, they can pick up tracts and Christian literature Barb spreads on the table. By the time a woman climbs into the chair and puts herself into Barb’s capable hands, she’s been primed with questions about spiritual things.
And as every hairdresser knows, a little care and attention go a long way in opening up a person’s heart.
Barb helps inmates keep their eyes on the future, too, when they will re-enter the outside world. She volunteers with Prison Fellowship’s Life Plan Seminars, which help inmates to set goals for their eventual transition back to the outside world.
Recently Barb helped organize a fashion show using inmates as models, teaching them how to be more confident in the way they look and dress. But real beauty, she reminded the women, is the inner beauty of character that comes from devotion to Christ.
After inmates are released from prison, Barb offers one last free hair appointment to give them a good start in their new life. She takes that opportunity to encourage them to get involved in a local church.
Barb was never the type of person who would just walk up to someone and present the Gospel. But God is using her own gifts to reach out to needy people with His love.
What a metaphor for all of us. It doesn’t matter if you’re not a great Bible teacher or evangelist. God can use you for His service no matter what your gifts are.
Any talent, any trade—dedicate it to God, and He will use you in ways you never dreamed of.