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Prison Ministry Volunteers Work Faithfully to Share the Good News »
Brandon didn’t want to attend the weekly service held at Adams County Correctional Facility by prison ministry volunteers in the Rocky Mountain Conference, but another inmate dragged him there. Initially argumentative, he was on his face sobbing by his second visit. After that, he was a regular attendee, joining in the singing, even willing to provide solo music for the group. When Ted Williams told him Jesus would “rather die than live in heaven without you,” it so touched his heart that he wrote a song using the same phrase as his title: “I’d Rather Die Than Live in Heaven Without You.”
Williams, RMC prison ministry coordinator, had the song recorded by a friend and delivered it to Brandon’s grateful mother. Serving 50 years in prison, Brandon was eventually baptized into God’s family.
If Jesus were on earth today, we would undoubtedly find him in the prisons and other unthinkable places, talking and dining with criminals and outcasts. “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners,” He said after being criticized for eating with tax collectors and sinners. His contempt was reserved for Pharisaical hearts, not for those who recognized their need of Him.
For the last five years, volunteers have been at Crowley County Correctional Facility. When the ministry first began, there were weeks when not one of the incarcerated men would show up. Instead of giving up and going home, they stayed to read the Bible and pray. Their prayers were rewarded. Now they often have 75 men attending. This month, 95 men showed up.
Because most church members don’t know anyone in jail, prisoners remain hidden from their lives. According to LifeWay Research in a new phone survey, 1,000 Protestant senior pastors say they “lack the training or finances to run an effective prison ministry.” Prison ministry work is primarily done informally by individuals in the congregation.
Williams wants to change that. His goal is to develop prison ministry leaders at each of the churches in the Rocky Mountain Conference. The Conference will help with the nuts and bolts and the legal aspect of being involved in prison ministries.
Like Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, Williams believes that “even the most broken lives and situations can be restored and made whole when we respond to God’s call to serve men and women behind bars.”
-- Carol Bolden