I spend about an hour in jail most weeks. No, it’s not a secret life of crime–I go as a Bible teacher. My training for this is my own growth as a Christian and what I have learned, and my goal is to share the Good News.
For me this Jail Ministry began several years ago when I was asked by several other members of my church—the Pleasanton Church of Christ—to consider becoming part of it. I was a little reluctant for several reasons. First, I have spent a good part of my life trying to stay out of jail, why would I want to go into one? Second, I wondered if the inmates would be friendly to me, and would they be receptive to the message I was bringing?
But maybe the most important thing to me—was I a good enough teacher? Could I truly teach the Bible to a group of strangers in what might be termed a less than ideal social setting?
After being screened for communicable diseases and possible police records, I was cleared to enter the Atascosa County Jail, Bible in hand, to share the news of God’s love for us and His desire to rescue us from our sins. Most Thursdays there are three men from my church who conduct our Bible study in a general purpose classroom in the County Jail. I found out that it wasn’t near as intimidating as I thought it would be, and it is rewarding. On Fridays my wife, along with several other ladies from our church, carries out a similar ministry for the women inmates at the County Jail. Both of us have learned a great deal carrying out these studies.
I have found it to be a wonderful experience. I have had to learn more about God’s Word so I can teach it better. I have also come to respect and like the inmates who participate in our study sessions. They are non-violent offenders, many with serious personal problems they are struggling to resolve. They need help—most of which can come from the Almighty with our help.
Our studies are voluntary. No inmate is required to take part. When I teach I try to stick to the basic message of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for our sins and the lessons He taught us, but also to highlight how our Church brings that message to the world. We encourage the inmates to study on their own and to have a prayer life and to share their faith. We have been told that our ministry has had a positive effect in the jail.
Speaking for myself, I try in these studies to be an encourager and one who brings the basic message that—with our help–God can help us be better than our instincts lead us to be. We have found this message also demands we become more knowledgeable of Scriptures and the message God brings us through it.
Christians are not perfect people, but we are forgiven and through our belief in a Risen Savior are empowered to help bring others to the Salvation that we have been promised.
I have not always been a practicing Christian and I certainly have committed my share of sins. I have found with God’s help I can be a better person. Through this ministry I have experienced personal growth, and have tried to be a servant, as Christ Himself was during His days on Earth. And I think this service has helped make me a better person, as well.
And I sincerely hope we have helped shine God’s light into a place where it is needed and very much appreciated.
WARREN DOMKE is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express.