Louisiana’s Incarcerated #nola #prisonministry
The Times-Pic / Nola.com article series on Louisiana’s Prison system has been very interesting. The report says that we incarcerate more people per capita than any other place in the world. And often local economies are built around the local prison. Today’s article was about how few have access to re-entry classes and programs. It’s true in St. Tammany as well. Two big reasons: little space & few volunteers. Our church has made St. Tammany’s Jail a place of engagement since 2008. We’ve taught Celebrate Recovery, Fathering Classes, Relationship Skills, & helped inmates connect with their families on the outside. The problem is we are few in number & the work takes a big toll on volunteers over time. More volunteers are needed who are willing to spend weekly or monthly times teaching, encouraging, etc. A few reasons why I believe the church MUST take the lead:
- Jesus’ call on those who are part of his kingdom in Matthew 25:36 – “I was in prison and you visited me” (NLT).
- A majority of our local inmates will be neighbors again. We have an opportunity to give them some tools to help them be productive upon release. But also to restore their dignity & let them know someone cares. As a relative of an inmate told me after one of our Family events at the Jail, “Thank you for helping my brother feel like a person again.”
- Each inmate represents a network of relationships that are many times at risk & isolated. A mom that’s heart broken, kids that are ashamed & without role models, wives forced to care for a household without an income. And many of these struggling with addiction & bitterness & loneliness themselves. When I think of Christ’s words, “sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36), my mind turns pretty quickly to this population segment. And the numbers hit us hard in this area: 41% of current inmates had a relative in prison. 25% of current inmates had a dad in prison. Could we stop this cycle through kindness, concern, & intentional Christian love?
- The gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). They need re-entry classes & life-skill training. They need to know people care & want them to succeed. But ultimately, they need to hear the Gospel & have the opportunity to be transformed by the power of God. We I saw the words in this morning’s paper – “few have access to the classes.” It hit me hard, b/c in my experience few have access to the Gospel as well.
“The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:38 (ESV)
How can you help?
- Volunteer to teach a class. Some of the biggest needs are Bible Study, Celebrate Recovery, Financial Planning, Relationships Skills, GED Tutoring, Literacy.
- Attend one of our family day events at our local jail. Next ones will be June 17 & July 29.
- Serve as a sponsor or mentor for an inmate in recovery.
- Serve as a mentor for an inmates child in our area. Our church will be doing a Mentor training on June 2 at the Groves Apartment Complex in Covington.
Email me about these or other opportunities.
It’s easy to talk bad about “the system.” Harder to sacrifice yourself to do something about it.
It’s easy to talk bad about “the system.” Harder to teach a class at the jail, mentor a child, sponsor an addict in recovery.