July, 2011 – Interview by Michelle Lallement, story by Diana Gruette
Westlink Christian Church has the exciting privilege of announcing Prisoners of Hope, a new ministry taking the gospel message to the incarcerated. Still in its infancy, Families of Hope is a ministry that supports families affected by incarceration.
The reason these ministries exist is to connect the incarcerated to Jesus and help them become His fully devoted followers. A second goal is to connect WCC members to existing jail and prison evangelism ministries.
Prisoners of Hope offers three ministry opportunitys for men and women, serving face to face or indirectly. Leisa Milford and her team: Kate Dearing, Mary Murrow and Rose Slaughter, share life once a week with women imprisoned in Wichita.
“It’s just the same as our Tuesday night women’s Bible study,” Leisa explains. The prisoners have a huge need (like all of us) to break free from bondage to old ways, habits, environments, and poor relationships. Jesus Christ is the answer to these challenges, and someone must be ready to communicate His truth along with godly advice. It is also vitally important that these offenders’ voices be heard. This is the place where “kind eyes can look into wounded ones and strong hands can hold weak ones.” (From Max Lucado’s Outlive Your Life)
Christian Ministries to Offenders www.cmowichita.com is an in-house ministry of Sedgwick County Jail. They provide free two-hour training and require some paperwork, including background checks and a pastoral letter of recommendation.
Next, volunteers practice shadowing a small group leader who works directly with those in jail or prison. Fear need not be a factor as last names of volunteers are protected and a safe environment has been created.
Letter writing is safe and omits personal return addresses. Additional ministries inside the jail include preaching in chapel services, group and/or one on one counseling, Bible study and GED training.
Women from churches all over Wichita meet Monday nights and men meet on Wednesday nights at the Sedgwick County Jail. Teams are greeted and led by Mary Rubeck, 10-year leader of volunteers and Chaplain Assistant.
Mentoring in person or by letter provides needed role models and encouragement. Clerical work, mailing newsletters, data entry/keyboarding and packaging clothing and toiletries for indigent prisoners are on-going needs.
John Crego tutors and preaches in the jail chapel and mentors one on one at the El Dorado Correctional Facility.
The team claims Hebrews 13:3 as their model for ministry:
“ Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
The third opportunity of involvement is donations. The team also meets monthly at ROSC-Returning Offenders Support Coalition, where they connect with people from non-profit groups who serve the urban poor (which often includes the ex-offender). Many small rehabs and halfway houses in Wichita are standing in the gap, picking up where the government leaves off. These organizations always need computers, clothing and toiletries.
“God led me to this ministry through personal pain, but others I have met are simply there in response to the Lords call, which is very humbling”, reports Leisa (Leisa’s personal testimony).
Some of the most powerful times Leisa has had were when she presented God in a fresh, relevant way that made sense to the women she serves. She has encountered women who know about Biblical truths as well as some who have no idea what she is talking about. One of her biggest joys is when she sees these women begin to mentor each other.
At a recent appreciation banquet, volunteers heard testimonies from several inmates whose lives have been transformed through the power of Jesus Christ. One young man implored them to continue this ministry, stating if they did not, they would have to be prepared to build a lot more jails.
The church is a body of believers doing ministry like that of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because the Lord has anointed me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners.” Isaiah 61:1
Let’s be about Kingdom Business, serving the needs of our community by supporting Prisoners of Hope and Families of Hope!
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February 11, 2011 – Prisoners of Hope Meeting Notes
Hebrews 13:3 Ministries
Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.
Wow, what a God driven day! Rose and I went to the ROSC (Returning Offenders Support Coalition) meeting and heard a riveting presentation by World Impact and Dean Johnson’s Pilot Program for Released Offenders. We invited Dean and Arlene Johnson to join us for lunch with John Crego at City Life Café. Unknown to us, John had invited Heath and Samantha Duncan.
World Impact told us of their urban ministry to the poor. Their 3 bullet point plan of empowering, evangelizing and equipping is manifested in church planting in underdeveloped neighborhoods (sound like underdeveloped nations?), two thrift stores, Morningstar Ranch and the Good Samaritan Mobile health ministries.
Dean Johnson and his wife Arlene, a team of two, got a grant from their church and piloted a Re-Entry program for offenders sans government funding. They find Faith-Based Housing for the candidates who then receive job training at the World Impact stores. The funding from the church pays their salaries. The Pilot Program flow chart shows multiple benefits from the founding church, to the reduced recidivism which reduces taxes and the increased ministry to the community. There are more benefits; I’m still trying to grasp them all. I’m ready to vote for Dean to go to Congress where they need this innovative type of thinking.
Unfortunately the Pilot Program (independent of World Impact) will end with the grant money unless new donors are found. We brainstormed over churches or church groups adopting an ex-offender and providing accountability by dropping in on him at the thrift shop and contributing to his wages. Their wages are $100 a week.
The icing on this heavenly cake is two of the program participants were at the meeting and one is about ready to graduate out. Jobs and community support equal less recidivism.
Heath and Samantha have a heart for the families of offenders and have a vision to help them. Hearing of this Pilot Program by the Johnson’s gave everyone food for thought.
At ROSC, we also met Laura Broyles, a team of one, who is working to start a halfway house for women. She is in the grant writing and fund raising process. This is much needed as the resources for women ex-offenders are much less than those for men.
A policeman at the meeting voiced his approval and the need for World Impact and the Pilot Program for Released Offenders.
Governor Sam Brownbeck has tasked ROSC to match a mentor to every Kansas offender. The process would begin as a pen pal and follow through with an encourager, preferably with someone of similar job skills as desired by the offender. This is an enormous undertaking. As you have probably heard in the news, many parole officers may lose their jobs.
As taxpayers, we can pay for crime through taxes for prisoners, or we can invest in ministries like these that apply conservative and Biblical principles to the criminal justice system.