The Importance of Prison Ministry
In the State of Ohio Penitentiary and Correctional Facilities the following applies to inmates: 67% come from a broken or dysfunctional home; 95% of men had no father figure; 67% have prior prison records; 75% have drug/alcohol abuse issues; 50% of male inmates have been physically or mentally abused; 80% of female inmates have been physically, mentally, sexually, or emotionally abused; 40% of all inmates were unemployed at the time of their arrest; 40% are below the literacy rate that would allow them to function normally in society. I believe these statistics point to the great need for Christian brothers/sisters to respond.
Brothers Mike Phillips, Mark Rennix, Joe Swecker, and I are involved in a Bible study every Sunday afternoon at Huttonsville Correctional Center. The work is challenging and frustrating at times, but rewarding. We always go with a prepared course of study we intend to cover, but it is challenging because we never know what topic or question one in the class may want to entertain. It is frustrating in that it is sometimes difficult to get the message through to some, but it is often rewarding when we see the truth take hold and see changes occur.
The gospel still is the power of God to all who hear, believe, and obey (Rom.1:16). In addition, prison ministry is a required work because we, as Christians, are given the responsibility to “go and teach.” It is another opportunity to “teach the word,” thus converting the lost and encouraging those who are in Christ. (Matt.28:18-20).
James 5:19, 20 tells us that, when we convert or turn back a sinner from the error of his ways, a soul is saved from death and a multitude of sins is hidden. If we are faithful to plant the seed (Luke 8:11), we are promised that God will give the increase (1 Cor.3:6,9) and that God promises His word will not return to Him void but will accomplish what He pleases (Isa.55:11).
An article in USA Today stated that the Prison Ministry program in Texas found that “inmates who participate in prison Bible studies are far less likely than other convicts to become repeat offenders.” Another article, from the new Hanover Correctional Center in Wilmington, NC said, “It is when attending services provided by volunteers, such as those from our prison ministry, that rehabilitation actually occurs.”
God’s Word can still transform lives when we teach it! With our Huttonsville work, since February 6th of this year, there have been one baptism and one restoration. The attendance varies from 10 to 17, and interest is really good. There is a portable baptistery on the stage where class is conducted, and we have hopes of making much use of it in the future.
The chaplain is Nancy Stevens who always sits in on the classes, which we think is a good thing. We are able to take and distribute other good Christian materials, and what is not taken by the class is put on a rack for anyone to get. With God’s help, this material is being used by many others.
We trust God will bring the increase (1 Cor.3:7). God has forever been interested in the souls of mankind and trusts in faithful men and women to teach whenever and wherever there is an opportunity. The opportunities are presented in class settings, in private homes, across the fence in the back yard, at the grocery store, post office, and, yes, even behind the walls of prisons where the need is tremendous. Those in prison are often down in deep valleys of life and looking for something to help them see and understand the true meaning of life. God’s Word has the answers to all these problems (2 Pet.1:3).
I preach for the Valley Bend church of Christ and count it a real privilege to be among those who go into Huttonsville Prison to do what we can to convert and encourage all who will listen. -401 Center St., Elkins, WV 26241. (304) 636-0128. email@example.com
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