March 2019: Sharing Jesus’ Love in Action – All Are Prisoners of Sin
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened (Acts 16:25-26).
Why is prison ministry important? Lives that had no hope can have hope. The main purpose of Prison Ministry is to share the Gospel of Jesus with others. The Holy Spirit through prayer will prepare and guide you to deliver God's word to all inmates unconditionally.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:16-17).
Before beginning a prison ministry, commit yourself to the will of God, become His servant, rely heavily on the Holy Spirit’s guidance through prayer, then respond to His direction by beautifully reflecting His grace, mercy and love.
Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them,
and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body (Hebrews 13:3).
Reaching Out in the Community
- Research the primary reasons for incarceration in your area as well as programs or agencies that may address the root cause. Raise funds for one or more of these resources by holding a fundraiser at your church.
- Invite a speaker to educate the congregation about specific issues in your community.
- Proceeds may be given directly to a local resource or they can be used to purchase necessary items such as teaching materials, Bibles, personal hygiene items, etc.
- Seek out an alternative sentencing or community corrections program in your area.
- If not fully government-funded, the program may need personal hygiene items, Bibles, or any number of things that your group could collect and deliver.
- The program may need volunteers to help in the areas of literacy, English as a second language, or GED preparation.
- Identify families who may need a helping hand, especially if the primary breadwinner is the one who is incarcerated.
- Ask them what they need most – babysitting, daycare, meals, etc. and then find a way to address some of those needs.
- Help them find resources to help with daycare, continuing education for themselves, etc.
- Learn about mentoring programs in your area, particularly those geared toward children with an incarcerated parent. Programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters will match adults and children with similar interests. They also do regular check-ins with all involved (child, mentor, and parent).
Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law,
imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed (Galatians 3:23).
Around the Districts:
Here are some mission projects in LWML districts which support prison ministries or which provide resources for children at risk:
- Northern Illinois (also supported by Iowa East, Louisiana-Mississippi, Missouri, Oregon, Texas, and Washington-Alaska) - Reaching Visually Impaired Inmates (Lutheran Braille Workers)
- Pacific Southwest - Giving Hope to Children in Need Using a Planetarium – Teaching disadvantaged youth about Biblical creation.
- South Wisconsin - Shelter My Sheep-Free at Last Ministry - Continue to provide support of spiritual care, mentoring inside and outside of prison walls
- Southern Illinois - Shared Prison & Jail Ministry in Southern Illinois District LCMS
LCMS Prison Ministry – As part of the LCMS Specialized Pastoral Ministry (SPM), the Prison Ministry has Prison Ministry Coordinators in each LCMS district. The ministry also produces resources such as a brochure, a handbook, and a terrific devotion booklet for prisoners titled “Prisoner’s Reflections: Meditations for Prisoners”.
NOTE: One of our mission grants for this biennium supports a Prison and Jail Ministry Synod-wide Conference in 2018! So, keep those mites coming!!!
Prison Fellowship – Founded in 1976 by Charles (Chuck) Colson, former White House Council, this ministry has a multitude of resources for bringing the Gospel message to prisoners and their families. The Angel Tree project is an outgrowth of this ministry and not only provides Christmas gifts to children of incarcerated parents but also provides resources for ministering to families throughout the year.
Community Corrections Programs – According to this Office of Justice (OJP) website: “Community corrections are sanctions imposed on convicted adults or adjudicated juveniles that occur in a residential or community setting outside of jail or prison. The sanctions are enforced by agencies or courts with legal authority over the adult or juvenile offenders.” You may find this website to be somewhat overwhelming in its abundance of information but it’s a great way to educate yourself about programs that might exist in your area.
- Foundation of Hope – Based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, this organization focuses on the continuum of support through pre-release and aftercare programs. The pre-release program addresses themes such as anger management, life skills, and parenting. The aftercare program matches the inmate with a mentor who provides encouragement and practical advice in addition to attending regular support group meetings.
And he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
And he said to him,
"Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:42-43).
A Prayer as You Plan:
Dear God, please help us remember those who are incarcerated, that they are your children. We ask for guidance to find ways to be servants to these brothers and sisters in our community. Father, keep us mindful of the families who suffer when a loved one is removed from them and to find ways to reach out and support them, especially the children involved. We each are sinful in our own ways and deserve eternal punishment. We praise and thank You for your boundless grace and mercy. Please Father; help us to extend that grace and mercy to those who are in prison. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.