SPEAKING MINISTRY: LEBANON CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTE- AUG 2021
I finally had a chance to get into Lebanon Correctional Institution last week. I say finally because I had completed the required paperwork to get in to minister before the pandemic, and due to the coronavirus restrictions, the prison had been closed for the last year. So, when the Chaplain contacted me and said I could get in, I jumped at the chance.
The Chaplain I work with is a great brother in the Lord and he holds a weekly meeting for any of the prisoners who want to attend called, “Second Chance.” They have a variety of speakers come in, many faith-based, but others that have resources to help the prisoners during their time in prison and after their release. I went with a friend named John, who has a powerful testimony of the Lord’s work in his life. We both had the opportunity to share our stories with about 40 prisoners. I also shared about our church and our local Teen Challenge facility as well as Pure Life Ministries as resources for them once they finish their sentences and reenter society.
The men seemed to be engaged throughout the meeting and when we had a time of question and answer, many of them asked very insightful questions. After the meeting, the Chaplain said that we were well received and that one of the young men who had asked us several questions was a Muslim. After our speaking time, a couple of the prisoners came up and shared how the meeting had impacted them. One was previously an Associate Pastor before he went to prison, and with tears in his eyes, he said my testimony cut right through to his heart. Another of the prisoners was 9 years into an 18-month sentence, and he was so excited to share about how the Lord had impacted his life through Steve Gallagher’s book, “At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry.” He wanted me to know that he had been able to lead about 100 other prisoners through a study of that book in his time in prison.
Going into prisons stirs up my heart for several reasons. First, I realize that I could be there in the same place if the Lord had not somehow protected me from it. One of the things prisoners have said to me in the past is that they enjoy me coming in because I don’t talk down to them, but relate to them on their level. I know that if not for the grace of God, I’m no better than any of them. So, it is humbling to be able to go in and share Jesus with them. The second thing is that there are some amazing brothers in Christ in the prison system. Many of them finally surrender all to Christ when they hit rock bottom, and their faith and their passion is an inspiration. Even though they do not have their physical freedom, spiritually they are more free than many of the people you meet on the outside.
Thank you for your continued prayers and support. We intend to continue to get into prisons as the Lord opens up doors and we need prayers for protection and the ability to communicate on a level that will impact the lives of prisoners for eternity. When you speak to a group of men doing time, you can feel the weight that they carry and the darkness in the atmosphere. But Jesus shines brightly in the darkness!
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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.