Chaplain Daniel McManus of the Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland, Virginia, and Prison Ministry director for the Minnesota Conference, Debra Coklas, presented a region-wide prison evangelism convocation and training weekend in Harvey, North Dakota the first weekend in May. The theme of the weekend was Evangelism Behind Bars: Empowering for Effectiveness.
Seven seminars provided information and training for
- Conducting effective and successful evangelism at a local prison and/or jail
- Showing the institutional chaplain/volunteer coordinator a commitment to excellence
- Helping avoid risks to safety and the institution’s security
- Avoiding pitfalls that would impede a successful outcome.
A certificate from the Dakota Conference and the Alliance of Prison Ministry Organizations and Affiliates was presented to those who attended all the lectures.
The Harvey and Manfred, North Dakota churches have had an active prison ministries program for about five years and have been successful in reaching inmates for Christ in the Rugby Regional Jail in Rugby, North Dakota. This is a short-term facility, but through the influence of church members sharing Christ, there are inmates who have been transferred to Illinois, Washington, Colorado and other locations who are sharing Christ as a result of their contact with these churches’ prison ministries.
Church members who are not active in visiting inside the prison have a card ministry from the church. They send notes of encouragement, GLOW tracts and small Signs of the Times. “Sometimes the inmates enjoy these more than the visits because they can take them back to their cells with them,” says Tom Deede.
The prison ministry members studied with one gentleman, Dion, for about a year before he became convicted about the Sabbath. One Saturday he called his sister in Jamaica and asked what she was doing. She replied that she was getting ready for church because her daughter had shown her from the Bible that Saturday was the Sabbath. He was thrilled that his prayers for his family were being answered even before he had shared what he was learning. He calls himself a Seventh-day Adventist, “because it is the church which believes most like what the Bible teaches.” Dion’s desire, upon his release, is to go to college and become a minister.
Recently, guards came into Dion’s cell in Rugby and asked if he was ready to go. Dion was not aware that he was being moved. He was sent to the Bismarck penitentiary where his cellmate was a Muslim. As part of becoming acquainted, Dion asked the gentleman to tell him about his religion. The man said, “No, tell me about Jesus,” which Dion gladly did. He also gave the man his Bible. Shortly thereafter the guards came to move the Muslim gentlemen to another location and then moved Dion back to Rugby. Dion says one of the stories he wants to tell his son is how God sent him to Bismarck to witness to a Muslim gentleman.
Pastor Bill Edwards explained to Dion that he may have to be satisfied with being a pastor in jail. Dion replied that whatever happens, he accepts it as the will of God. “Keep me in your prayers every Sabbath,” he requested. “I am unworthy, but God is good.” Dion feels that the Harvey and Manfred churches’ pastor and prison ministry members are like family to him.
Dion is now sharing Christ in Minnesota where he has been transferred. The prison chaplain noted his ability to teach and asked if he would teach Bible classes every other day, besides the Bible studies he is giving. Dion agreed and requested books and supplies from the Harvey and Manfred churches. They gladly sent him copies of the Desire of Ages, Steps to Christ and GLOW tracts, but were doubtful he would receive them, as prison policy states only things ordered from Amazon.com are passed along to the inmates. God intervened, however, and Dion is currently using the books as part of his classes.