Out to the Hurting
by Mary Sue DeFore
Most of us, if we think of people in jail at all, think of low types of people—people who have no moral sensibility, who don’t try at life, who are not very worthwhile. Actually going into a jail can be rather stunning. You will find those who consciously live outside the law and morality, but you also find college graduates, ministers, people who can finish almost any scripture you begin, and people who were doing their best, but found themselves in the wrong circumstances at a critical time. The problem with our thinking about those in jail is that we forget that the difference in their sins and our sins is primarily that theirs were against the law. But God looks at them and at us and sees sinners--people in need of his grace and of knowing him. The jail ministry attempts to address the need of those in jail to come into contact with God and with Jesus.
Over the years, we see the same people come, go, and come again. It is difficult for many inmates, whose lives have been set in one pattern for generations, to break away from old friends, old habits, and old difficulties, and hold to a new path. With many of them, jail and prison are as much family tradition as Thanksgiving dinner to most of us! In their prayer requests, inmates often ask us to pray for their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, and other family members who are all in jail or prison somewhere, or who have just gotten out.
Looked one way, this confirms the thinking that these people are a waste of time—they aren’t going to change (and most of them won’t). But from another view, imagine the difference to the world and our society if here and there, this chain could be broken by some one of these people submitting her life to Christ, teaching and setting a Christian example for her children and other family members. Think of the impact of a changed life—Chuck Colson, who has done so much in service to Jesus in prisons since his days there. Mary Kay Beard, who was one of the FBI’s most wanted, who returned to Christ and founded “Angel Tree,” which became part of prison ministry.
Teaching in jail ministry is easy. It is simply a matter of reading and discussing the Bible and, most importantly, showing God’s love to people in desperate circumstances. GCR’s jail ministry currently consists of three members - Tim Galyon for men, and Frances VanCuren and Mary Sue DeFore for women, but there is need for more volunteers to reach out to the hurting, often lonely, people housed in local jails. Contact any of them, if you would be willing to help in this ministry.