SPEAKING MINISTRY: ALLEN OAKWOOD CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION 2022
Allen-Oakwood Correctional Institution is a Level 1 security prison located in Lima, Ohio. The chaplain who had invited me to come speak explained to me that being a Level 1 didn’t mean that there weren’t violent offenders in the prison, but that many of the men who were at Allen Oakwood had been able to get there by moving up the ranks through good behavior.
I had been invited to come and share with a group of men who had formed last year in order to learn about how to get free from sexual addiction by the power of God and His Word. There were about 20 men in attendance, and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to share about the great working of God’s mercy in my own life.
Having a chance to talk with some of the men one-on-one was an incredible blessing to me. A couple of them were serving life sentences for crimes that they had committed. It is hard to imagine what it would be like to know that you will spend the rest of your life behind bars and without freedom. One man had served 37 years of a 40-100 year sentence. He had recently given his life to Jesus and had joined the group in hopes that he could learn to live in greater freedom. Another man shared that although he was serving a life sentence, he wouldn’t trade what God had done in his life for a chance to get out. He was so grateful that the Lord had taken what the devil had meant for evil in his life and turned it around for good. He helped oversee the group and was a mentor to many of the men. Only God can turn a life around and use it to glorify Himself in such a dark place!
The spiritual hunger of these men, their eagerness to learn the Word of God and their desire to be used by Him was both refreshing and challenging. We get so comfortable in the American church with all our freedom and prosperity. It is amazing how these men, from broken backgrounds and extremely difficult circumstances, have been able to turn their whole hearts to the Lord. They didn’t have many of the distractions that we have, so their passion and zeal for the Lord was evident and unhindered.
I shared my testimony with the group, as well as some key principles that I have learned in my own journey toward freedom. We opened it up for questions and comments, and the men expressed their deep appreciation for the time of ministry. I walked out of that prison knowing that the Lord had accomplished what He wanted for the evening. And I look forward to going back when the Lord opens the door for me to return. God is moving in Allen Oakwood Correctional Institute in an amazing way in the lives of men who open up their hearts to Jesus.
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DUSTIN RENZ is the President of Make Way Ministries, a non-profit organization that exists to see the world changed one Christian at a time. He has a passion to see the Body of Christ find rich intimacy in their relationship with Jesus and step out in faith to share the Gospel with the world around them. He is the author of Pile of Masks: Exposing Christian Hypocrisy and Something Better. He resides in Dayton, Ohio with his wife and three daughters.