This article offers a glimpse of how God is moving in prison and jail ministries to impact the lives of local inmate populations in the Bryan/College Station area and how these impacted lives can influence the re-entry of the inmates to families and communities ”Outside”. On a larger scale, God is moving in two other ministries to change the culture of prisons. The results are impressive.
In February 2014, a “Leader to Leader Forum” at Central Baptist Church identified prison and jail inmate populations as a high priority. Attending the Forum were 25 representatives from the three local Celebrate Recovery ministries (Central Baptist, Brazos Fellowship and Grace Bible), prison ministries and several other organizations.
The Forum subsequently generated more collaboration to implement programs at both the local Hamilton Unit and the Brazos County jail including implementation of Celebrate Recovery’s “Life’s Healing Choices” as a life skills curriculum. This curriculum is ideal for short term situations and provides the added value of Outside Celebrate Recovery programs as a resource when inmates are released.
The CR program requires curriculum facilitators. Two group facilitators are required for each small group. Local Celebrate Recovery programs provide training and support facilitators. Content comes from DVD teachings. Participants complete homework questions. The curriculum facilitators guide group discussion and promote sharing and reflection. Group guidelines create a safe and encouraging environment. Celebrate Recovery’s Inside/Outside prison and jail ministry is nationwide.
God is also moving in prisons to provide facilities and training that is changing the culture of the prisons. Our own Hamilton Unit can benefit from two programs that are already demonstrating positive impact in prisons. At the Leader Forum, Warden Bill Lewis (Hamilton Unit) identified a great need for more chapel space. “We have very limited space in our current chapel area. The inmate demand for these programs is much greater than we can
accommodate.” A non-profit program, Chapel of Hope, has successfully built seven chapels in Texas prisons. The chapels are funded entirely from private donations. Recent meetings are encouraging and Hamilton has been designated to begin fund raising for a chapel. Go to ChapelofHope.org for more information.
In 1995, Angola prison in Louisiana began offering a seminary degree to inmates. This program was also implemented with donated funds. The program has been credited for a 75 percent reduction in violence at Angola since inception. Darrington Unit in Rosharon, Texas, began a similar program in 2011 sponsored by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and the Heart of Texas Foundation. The program is non-denominational and offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Biblical studies. To qualify, students must have a high school diploma or GED credentials, clean behavioral records for at least a year. The graduates become Field Ministers. They are sent to other units to serve…in locations like Hamilton. While the Chapel of Hope and seminary programs are separate in funding and administration, they are very much complimentary in change the lives and culture of Texas prisons.
Locally, much cooperative work is underway to inform and bring together ministry leaders, volunteers and donors who can join efforts to provide a place “inside” where inmates can worship and be taught the transforming hope available in Jesus Christ. The significant transforming changes documented at Angola are being evidenced elsewhere. Local meetings are being scheduled where representatives from Chapel of Hope, Southwestern Seminary, and local Prison/Jail ministries will describe how individuals can participate and support jail and prison ministries. To become a part of this endeavor, or for more information, please contact Carson Watt or Sonja Kimberlin at Central Baptist Church 979.776.9977.
article courtesy of Celebrate Recovery