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Grace United Methodist Church jail ministry reaches out in love

Grace United Methodist Women hold a general meeting panel discussion on the Grace UMC Prison Ministry. Four Grace UMW members participated in the discussion. From left are Mary Sue Graham, Jean Dowty, Jessie Bowdoin and Patricia Phillips.

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Four women gather at Grace United Methodist Church to prepare for ministry to the Al Cannon Detention Center.

The Grace United Methodist Church Women’s Jail Ministry is comprised of mostly United Methodist Women, eight of them.

On any Wednesday midday, whether cold, hot, rainy or beautiful, four of the ladies gather at the church to prepare for another jail ministry to the Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston. They review the materials to be shared from a “Purpose Driven Life,” “Here and Now,” the Gospel of John or other materials. After they pray for a meaningful service, they load into cars and head out for the jail.

The jail service consists of an inmate reading a selection from the Bible or other source, followed by discussion. Often the inmates are well-versed in the Bible and read quite well. Inmates attending are in a dark valley of their lives and need hope. They are reminded that God loves them and he has a plan for their lives. If they have strayed, they may ask forgiveness and guidance from Jesus Christ, who died to save us all. However, they often have problems believing God will forgive anything. The service ends with the Sinner’s Prayer or other prayer.

Inmates say they find relief in the hour spent with the Jail Ministry sharing God’s word. It is the one time during the week they can break from their routine and feel closer to their faith or just freer. The Jail Ministry ladies say they often feel more blessed than the inmates to whom they have ministered.

The GUMC Jail Ministry is now in its fifth year. It evolved from a Bible Study and reading the book, “A Purpose Driven Church—Better Together.” When looking for a site to apply the book’s teachings, one member with a daughter who was working at the detention center suggested the center for the mission. The detention center has proven to be a great site for the Jail Ministry. It is indeed a mission field for a forgotten population.

One of the issues coming to the forefront in our ministry is the need to provide safe housing for inmates that have no home to go to upon release. This may be because of loss or a dangerous environment in the home. Homelessness was something that occurred to the GUMC women upon hearing the stories of the inmates hoping for new lives, free from all the things that had brought them to the detention center.

Jail Ministries can evolve into a community-wide project for this homeless problem. It would be a blessing to have other churches joining in this problem’s solution.

You do not have to go to a distant land to be a missionary. Rather, you can be a missionary right in your own backyard.

Beth W. Kennedy, South Carolina Advocate

One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the World Service Fund is the financial lifeline to a long list of Christian mission and ministry throughout the denomination. Through the Four Areas of Focus churches are Engaging in ministry with the poor with their communities in ways that are transformative.

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