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Nail it to the cross

Incarcerated women in Costa Rica find freedom in Christ

Beth Tatum serves with The Mission Society in Costa Rica. One of the ministries with which she is involved is teaching Bible studies and the Celebrate Recovery program to incarcerated women. Here she describes an event that happened one day during a worship service in the prison.

I am part of a team of three women who minister weekly in Buen Pastor, the women’s prison in Costa Rica. Most of the inmates are there for crimes such as drug trafficking, robbery, and murder. There are women from Costa Rica, Africa, the US, Canada, Mexico, Romania, Guatemala, and Colombia in this prison.

One day while I was preaching, I witnessed an incredible event.

As I was talking, God reminded me that these beautiful women were full of doubt—of themselves and of their worth in Christ. They had believed the lies that Satan had told them about themselves, some with devastating consequences.

I’m not allowed to bring wood and nails into the prison, so I quickly drew a cross on the whiteboard. I felt that these women needed to do something physical in order to heal physically, mentally, and spiritually.

I asked each woman to stand up, walk to the board, name the lie they believed about themselves, and hammer it to the whiteboard cross.

I started by telling them that, as a child, my brothers often teased me and said I had a big nose. Although they were being playful, their words had affected my self-esteem and caused me to have other self-image issues for more than 40 years. I stood up, announced the lie that had affected me for so many years, and then I pounded my fist against the cross.

Soon women were racing to the whiteboard to nail the lies they had believed for so long. Abuse, death, betrayal, broken relationships, and other situations that had affected these women were nailed, one by one, to the cross.

One woman started towards the whiteboard but collapsed to the ground in tears. I went over and prayed with her as others encouraged her to have the strength to stand. The women began chanting, “Nail it! Nail it! Nail it!” as she weakly made her way to the board and pounded her fist against the cross.

For so many of us, pains from the past take a long time to heal. The beginning of healing comes with forgiveness. Sometimes we need to understand that words spoken to us were not always meant to be taken the way we heard them, and we are never supposed to hold on to lies.

I believe God smiled as this lady was able to finally speak truth into her situation and nail those hurts to the cross, giving them back to God to heal and redeem.