Imagine sharing a prison cell with five to eight others. There is so little floor space that you have to take turns exiting your bed from one of the two or three triple bunk beds crammed into the cell. While you’d like to spend some time outside your cell, the common area only has seating for about half of the inmates. You’re actually thankful that you can go to your prison job entering 1930s census data into a database, for which you get paid less than a dollar per hour. With several more years to serve on your sentence, to call your outlook bleak would be an understatement.
One day you notice a rack of free WELS Prison Ministry Bible study booklets. You grab a couple and take them back to your bunk. You learn things you’ve never heard before. God, the highest judge of all, has declared you “not guilty.” Even though the charges against you were valid, you learn that this loving God punished his own Son for the things you’ve done. You are now a son or daughter of the King of kings for eternity, no matter what the rest of this life holds. How would you respond?
When Warden Wanda Markland introduced WELS Prison Ministry booklets to the South Dakota Women’s Prison, the inmates’ response was so positive that they gathered an offering for our ministry. Warden Markland has enlisted the help of her pastor, John Schwartz, to find more ways to bring the Lord’s law and gospel to the inmates.
This is just one of the hundreds of facilities nationwide served by WELS Prison Ministry. An inmate in Texas writes:
I came across a brother in Christ who is currently enrolled in your mail-in Bible study course. What a great gift you offer to sinners such as ourselves! I thank you wholeheartedly for your continued devotion to reach out to people that society would much rather lock away and “throw away the key.”
To continue and extend our ability to touch lives with the gospel, we need your help. Our Savior provides ten percent of our annual budget through Congregation Mission Offerings; he gives the remainder of our funding through offerings from foundations and individuals. These gifts are put to good use. With the help of hundreds of volunteers, we engage thousands of inmates across the country in regular Bible study for an annual investment of about $225,000.
Please consider making a gift that would help us continue our ministry-by-mail using self-study Bible courses and pen pals. We also train, equip, and support called workers and lay people to carry the good news of Jesus into correctional facilities and then to welcome and mentor released inmates.
I know you join me in thanking God for and rejoicing with our sisters in Christ from South Dakota. They have experienced the joy of learning about the blessings they have through Christ and of thanking him with their actions and their resources. As we celebrate the arrival of the Light of the World this Christmas and look ahead to another year of God’s grace and provision, I ask that you prayerfully consider a one-time or recurring gift that will help us proclaim freedom in Jesus to people impacted by incarceration.
Serving Christ together with you,
David P. Hochmuth
Administrator, Prison Ministry