“. . . I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:36).
Tears rolled down the cheeks of “Beth”* as she heard the Gospel for the first time during Bible study in the women’s cell block at the Whitley County, Ind. jail. We had just read: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). She cried between sobs, “It just seems too good to be true!” My colleagues and I had the privilege of assuring her that God’s message is true and is for her personally. Truly there is no greater joy than seeing God work through His mighty Word!
In addition to holding weekly Bible studies in the cell blocks, St. John’s Lutheran Church in Columbia City provides a chapel service at the jail twice a month at which Law and Gospel is preached, Lutheran hymns are sung, and prayers are lifted up on behalf of the inmates’ specific requests. There have been a handful of Baptisms at the jail this past year as a result of God’s Word at work through these Bible studies and worship services—all glory to God!
This past year St. John’s has also been providing aftercare to inmates once they are released from jail in the form of: holding weekly Bible studies for female residents of the Whitely County Work Release Center, providing transportation to church and various appointments, providing food and clothing, and mentoring residents at the local homeless shelter where some inmates may go if they do not have a home to which to return. All of these efforts are done in order to provide Christian care as these inmates transition back into society.
According to a survey conducted just over a year ago by the Indiana District Prison Ministry Task Force, there are approximately five other churches in the Indiana District besides St. John’s, Columbia City which are actively involved in some sort of prison or jail ministry in their area. Imagine the impact in our communities if more congregations would get involved with prison/jail ministry!
Did you know that the Indiana District Prison Ministry Task Force can assist your congregation with starting a prison/jail ministry in your area? They are happy to send a member of the task force to serve as a guest speaker on the topic of prison/jail ministry to your congregation. The task force has also created a Bible study book along with a leader’s guide for specific use in jail ministry. The LCMS also offers a grant of up to $1,000 to congregations which begin a prison/jail ministry (visit LCMS.org for more information on this grant opportunity and jail ministry in general).
For information on reserving a guest speaker or receiving a copy of the jail Bible study book, or if you would like additional information for how to begin or expand prison/jail ministry in your area, please contact Deaconess Carole Terkula at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 260-244-3712.
Lift High the Cross, Deaconess Carole Terkula, St. John’s Lutheran Church, Columbia City, IN
*Real names of inmates have been changed to protect privacy.