By Alan Jones
Steve Freeze, out brother in Christ, an inmate at the Indiana Youth Center, recently pleaded with me to take time out of my busy schedule and do some writing about my work of taking the gospel to the imprisoned. He has a great desire for many brethren to be informed of this tremendous field “white already unto harvest” (Jn. 4:35) so that they may also begin reaping. To this end, therefore, this article.
Primarily, my work with inmates is done at the Indiana State Reformatory at Pendleton, Indiana, though Steve and I are studying evidences together by correspondence. For the history of the teaching of the gospel at Pendleton, see the article written by Kevin Sulc (GOT, Vol. 31, No. 21, pp. 8-9).
At least nine men at Pendleton are servants of Jesus. Approximately twenty men are being studied with weekly by seven preachers, Phil Morgan, Joe McCameron, Rich Gant, Galen Miller, Paul Johnson, Tommy Pledger, and me. Kevin Sulc is now working with the Rivermont congregation in Chester, VA, but continues to be involved in the work through correspondence courses.
Contacts continue to be made faster than they can be followed up, especially because the men who are being taught are referring us to others who they’ve found interested.
There is good prospect for what is called a “count-letter,” a session of worship and study that fifteen inmates could participate in with fifteen of us from “the outside.” The Activities Director is pulling for us to have such an opportunity and the inmates we’re studying with are circulating a petition to show the Administration their interest.
Ken Kersey, a very mature brother in the faith, has begun to do some writing for circulation among the inmates. This may turn into a monthly periodical, “The Word is Not Bound,” which this inmate brother will edit and do most of the writing.
The chaplain has been the Devil’s right-hand man to seek to discourage us and those we’re working with, especially by standing in the way of men’s baptism. James Thompson had to wait ten months to be baptized. We’re thankful for his persistence and for the fact that he’s now a new creature in Christ. Pray for our obstacle with the chaplain to be in some way removed so that he might not continue to, as Elymas, “seek to turn men aside from the faith” (Acts 13:8).
When Kevin wrote his article last November, my support was not yet established on a regular monthly basis. This continued to be the case until April of this year when it was secured. It remains yet intact. The ten months that my wife Jill and I were unsure of how our bills would be paid increased our faith in the providence of God and in our brothers and sisters in Christ who, both congregationally and individually, gave so that our needs were well supplied.
No doubt one of the reasons that I haven’t before now sat down to write of prison evangelism is that there is so much which could be said. Each month I send out a report to those supporting me which is three to six pages. There are many lessons which I could draw from my work, but I’ll just select one for now, one hopefully that will cause one person not now working with the imprisoned to be motivated to take the seed into this fertile area.
All of us are familiar with the laundry detergent commercials on T.V. which are used to demonstrate the effectiveness of a particular brand, especially as compared to their competition. A child is shown getting mud, ketchup, grass, and every imaginable dirty substance on the same shirt. The shirt is then washed, comes out stainless, and the point is made that, if the soap could get out that stain, then it could surely do any of our laundry.
According to Paul, he was the toughest customer the gospel ever faced. He was “before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious,” in his eyes, “chief” of sinners. He told Timothy that this was the reason Jesus extended mercy to him, so that for a times he could serve as an example of his longsuffering. If Jesus was willing to forgive Paul, who was at the least an accomplice to murder, and appoint him to his service – sending him around the world, even before the Emperor of the world, with his gospel; and, through the Holy Spirit, allowing him to write half of our N.T. books – he will forgive and he will be able to use anyone! (1 Tim. 1:12-16)
The apostle declared that it is the gospel which is God’s power to cleanse every stain and to transform a man from a sinner to a servant of righteousness (Rom. 1:16; 6:17-18). The “good news” made the difference in the life of Paul. It continues to convict, convert, and cleanse even criminals like him yet today and make them useful for the Master.
If you have opportunity to teach men (or women) in prison, don’t doubt the power of the gospel. Though they may be bound, the Word of God is not (1 Tim. 2:9). Take them the message of hope found in the example of Paul that they might have opportunity to be saved and to exclaim as he, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Tim. 1:17).
(If you live near Pendleton, Plainfield, Westville, or Michigan City, Indiana and want some contacts to get started, let me know!)
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 24, p. 741
December 15, 1988