'To the least of these' Ministry shares hope & joy
The need for Christians to reflect Christ's love and reach out to those in crisis is as strong as ever, say Evangelist Carolyn Griffin of Warrior Ministries of Greenville and John Robinson of HIM (His International Ministries) and Helicon Missionary Baptist Church in Lapine.
That's why the two joined forces with area churches, businesses, law enforcement and concerned citizens to bring Christmas cheer and a strong message of hope to the inmates of the Butler County Jail this week.
It almost didn't happen.
"We started out with one plan, and that fell through - but God provided. He had other plans and it turned out better than we ever expected -two special meals instead of just one," Robinson said with a smile.
The inmates, who will be provided a dinner with all the holiday trimmings on both Christmas and New Year's, received gifts of toiletry items and basic wardrobe items such as underwear and socks through the generosity of the donors. Volunteers also shared the plan of salvation and passed out Christmas cards, tracts and Bibles to each prisoner.
Griffin said the Scriptures provided the inspiration for the inmate outreach.
"Luke 4:18 says we have been anointed to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives...certainly he would want us to help these people," the evangelist said.
"After all, the reason Jesus came was to seek and save the lost. And in Matthew 25:35-40, Jesus taught us when we help anyone who is sick, hungry, thirsty, in need of clothing - or who is in prison - then we are doing the same for Jesus."
Robinson said some people might question the need to use financial resources on those who had broken the law.
"We didn't go into that jail with a condemning spirit. When it says 'whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life' in John 3:16, that means anyone and everyone, including the folks in jail," Robinson said.
"We all have to remember: there but for the grace of God, it could be one of us," Griffin said.
"Many of us have co-workers, church members, family members or friends whose lives have been touched in some way by a person in jail. The truth is, we have all made mistakes, but we all still have a chance to get it right in life. Jesus wants to take the gospel to the people who need it."
Robinson believes "God Himself" orchestrated this year's Christmas outreach to the inmates of the Butler County Jail.
"We had a beautiful day and more to give them than we first expected. We just shared what was on our hearts and they listened...I saw some tears shed."
A jail shouldn't be a strange or forbidden place to share the Gospel.
"If you stop and thing about it, much of the New Testament we cherish and love and preach was actually written from inside a jail cell," Robinson said.
"I believe some people end up in jail because it is the only place they will sit and actually listen to what they need to hear."
"Hope" is the message Griffin hopes all received on Friday.
"I feel as I have already had my Christmas. Helping others is what the Lord wants us to do. We have sin-sickness in our community and Jesus came to heal that. That is a great message of hope," she said.
Griffin expressed gratitude to all those who supported the Christmas jail ministry, including the Southern Baptist Association (tracts and Bibles); Pastor Fred Lowery and the Helicon Missionary Baptist Church; Pastor Scott Miller of the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church; First Baptist Church - Greenville; Pastor Dric Williford of First United Methodist Church; Pastor Cecilia Adams of House of Prayer Holiness Church; Pastor Jim and First Lady, Mary Love Helms of Call to Life Worship Center; Pastors Harold and Beverly Daniels of New Beginning Ministries; Pastor Allen Stephenson of Mt. Pisgah Baptist and First Baptist Church of Georgiana; Wal-Mart of Greenville; Barba Mallard of Barba's His and Hers Hair Salon; Proverbs International Christian Bookstore; Sheriff Kenny Harden, Captain Al McKee Lt. Sharon Smith and the staff of the Butler County Jail, the staff of The Greenville Advocate and all the citizens of Butler County who gave their individual support.
Bringing God to those in prison
Inmates at the Butler County Jail recently experienced the Word through a visit by Minister Thomas Jones.
All the inmates of the jail were placed in the exercise yard behind the jail so that they could hear the preaching style of Jones who told those listening, not to judge him, for they don't know him.
“You don't know me,” he said. “You don't know where I've been or what I've gone through in my life. I was determined not to let sin be my master because I know that if you don't follow God's will, He will break your will to make you follow His.”
Jones visited the jail from his home mission office at Potter's House Fellowship in Jacksonville, Fla. There he supervises 26 other ministers who work throughout Florida in the prison system. Because of his ministry, Jones has crossed paths with a few renowned criminals.
“I walked Death Row in Florida for years,” he said. “Through that I met the likes of Ted Bundy and others who were sentenced to die.”
He said he knew he had to come to Butler County when he was called.
“God placed a few of these men on my heart and one or more that I came for have come forward,” he said. “The others may not make a decision to do, but the important thing is to get them thinking about God.”
After he finished preaching, Jones made a traditional invitation to accept Christ and several men lined up to speak to the minister. He spent approximately 15 minutes with one individual who could be seen crying as he talked to the minister.
Potter's House conducts approximately 20 services a month for inmates.
“These are the men and women who need us the most and you can't ignore the call to help them when God puts that on your heart,” he said.
Jones was invited to Butler County by Evangelist Carolyn Griffin, who works with Lt. Al McKee at the jail with a prison ministry. She said she shared with Jones her ministry and he volunteered to visit.
“He offered to come and spend as much time as he could with the inmates,” he said. “I believe it has gone very well because he has such a passion for God.”
She said they both believe it is important to minister to prisoners because of the words of Christ.
“He said ‘You ministered to me when I was in prison. You fed me when I was hungry. You clothed me when I was naked,'” she said. “That's why he has ministry and why I'm working hard to start one here.”
She said so many of the men and women who are in the Butler County Jail don't have a support system and it is important to show them people do care about them.
“We bring them things like clean t-shirts, snacks, candy and toiletries,” she said. “Everything we do is because of donations.”
While Jones spoke privately with various inmates, Griffin began to preach and sing to the group.
“We love you and God loves you and you should never forget that,” she said. “That's why we're out here in this heat, to show you how much we care for you.”
Sheriff Kenny Harden said he believed it was an important visit.
“I feel like it is a very good program,” he said. “If just one person turns their life around then it will mean they won't end back up in the county jail. If one person changes, then it's successful.”
Both Potter's House Fellowship and Warrior Ministries operates their prison ministries through donations.
For more information on Warrior Ministries, visit www.warrior-ministries.org.