Blessings on a jail visitor’s creativity

As times change, so do some of the methods we use to share the unchanging gospel. Prison Ministry Committee member Bob Fink has used lots of creativity in trying to serve inmates in the Manitowoc County Jail. Through his innovation, Bob and his fellow volunteers have seen a noticeable increase in the number of souls they serve.

The ministry Bob serves was started in 2015 by Pastor Greg Pope. Bob received training from Chaplain Phil Merten from our partner Institutional Ministries. Initially the ministry followed the traditional format of biweekly studies attended by five or so inmates. As Bob got to know some of the inmates better, he would schedule one-on-one visits to give them more opportunities to learn and grow. But all that stopped when the pandemic hit. No in-person visits were allowed for over a year, and when they were allowed again, it was only via phones on either side of a glass barrier. So, Bob got creative.

At first Bob used mail to stay in touch and spiritually encourage inmates. He explored using video calls, but the expense was too high. But God was providing. Bob was asked to speak at the funeral of one of his former inmates. The funeral director was moved by Bob’s efforts and helped him with a donation of 100 Bibles for him to distribute. The real breakthrough came when Bob discovered a new “e-mail” style service offered by Cidnet that the jail was using to help inmates communicate. Messages cost 10 cents each, so he could interact with multiple inmates at a reasonable cost. Bob now sends devotions and receives messages from 28 inmates. He makes them aware that we offer a Bible correspondence course, specifically geared for inmates. Nearly all the inmates would appreciate personal visits as well. Inmates inform Bob of additional inmates who want to be contacted. The six volunteers who work with Bob make as many visits as they can, but Bob is still looking for additional volunteers to accommodate all the ministry opportunities.

Here’s an excerpt from one of the messages (typos and all) Bob has received through Cidnet:

Thank you so very much bob. my name is robert. im 47 years young. a christian whose fallen out of the life long practice. yes id be interested in the bible study your church offers if you would like to add me to the mailing list. i am facing time in prison and im sure i will go. i accepted my future fate already and ive only been in jail for 16 days. i know i have the lord on my side, its hard but i know i can make it.

One area of the ministry that Bob would like to improve is support of former inmates after release. These returning citizens often carry lots of shame and feel very uncomfortable attending a worship service. Bob has had a little more success with inviting released inmates to a smaller, less formal gathering, such as a men’s Bible study. But our congregations need to find other ways to connect these new or returning believers to the body of Christ in a supportive way. To help equip congregation members for this task, WELS Prison Ministry offers two resources. One is a Bible study, “Helping the Hurting with Hope,” found here: The second is a training course with online discussion offered twice a year. Alternatively, the training can be offered locally. Visit for more information.