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Jesus calls us to feed the hungry_ clothe the naked_ welcome the

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									   Looking Beyond
      the Bars               Jesus calls us to feed the
                             hungry, clothe the naked,
                             welcome the stranger, care
                             for the sick, and visit those
                             who are in prison. Often
                             that last directive is forgotten
                             or overlooked. Yet, with
                             1.6 million people serving
                             sentences in U.S. state and
                             federal prisons, and another
                             785,000 people in local jails
                             (according to the latest
                             U.S. Department of Justice
                             statistics), the need and
                             opportunities for caring for
                             prisoners is greater than ever.
                             As the Covenant’s Commis-
                             sion on Christian Action
                             brings a resolution to this
                             year’s Annual Meeting, call-
                             ing the church’s attention to
                             criminal justice issues, the
                             Companion highlights the
                             stories of three Covenanters
                             who are involved in prison
                             ministries in their own
                             communities.
6 | The Covenant Companion
Jules Jacob                                                                            ministry, inmates haven’t changed
                                                                                       much, in his opinion. Some are men
Face to Face for                                                                       of faith looking for a spiritual mentor;

Thirty Years                                                                           some are just looking for a human
                                                                                       connection.
By MAriAnne PeterS                                                                        “One of the inmates i corre-
                                                                                       sponded with wrote, ‘i don’t know


W
           hen it comes to serving God,                                                what i would’ve done without you,’”
           age is not an issue for Jules                                               says Jacob.
                                           Jules Jacob
           Jacob.                                                                         “Love is so important, especially
   in 1979, Jacob had just retired         word,” he says. “He gave that com-          for those whose actions landed them
from his supervisory job at a steel        mand to all of us, to spread the good       in prison; however, inmates aren’t the
mill in Youngstown, Ohio, where            news.”                                      only ones who face temptation,” he
he was a member of First Covenant              When he started in prison ministry,     says. troubles go along with life, he
Church. While attending a men’s            Jacob met with groups of inmates            points out. “We all make mistakes. We
retreat soon after his retirement, he      who would come to hear him share.           should all expect the unexpected, and
learned about ministry opportunities       now he meets one-on-one with                the devil’s already there to tempt us.”
with inmates at Mahoning County Jail       individuals who request an appoint-            “But,” Jacob adds, “God’s already
in Youngstown. After years working         ment with him through the prison            there, too.”
in the rough-edged world of the steel      activities coordinator. Jacob meets            even in a prison cell. ■
industry, Jacob was not intimidated by     with them in the visitors’ room. He
the prospect of talking with and relat-    prefers meeting with individuals, he        Marianne Peters is a freelance writer living in
                                                                                       Plymouth, Indiana.
ing to prisoners. He’s been relating to    says, because he knows he has their
them ever since.                           full attention.
   today Jacob, who will celebrate             “i feel many of them really miss
his ninety-third birthday in August,
continues his ministry with incarcer-
                                           the outside contact,” says Jacob. “Jail
                                           is a hard slap at your emotions. You
                                                                                       Don Johnson
ated men, meeting with them one-on-        are shunned. even inmates’ families         Why I Go to Jail
one, praying with them, and offering       ostracize them sometimes. We’re there


                                                                                       i
them a listening ear and a comforting      to give them hope.”                             t started at a funeral service. the
word. now living at the Holmstad in            Jacob observes that many of the             former governor of Minnesota,
Batavia, illinois, a Covenant retire-      offenders he meets have a church                the Honorable Al Quie, was giving
ment community, he and his neighbor,       background but have drifted away            tribute to the deceased. We visited
retired pastor and teacher Pembroke        and want to get back on track. Jacob        in my office prior to the funeral. i
taylor, make the drive to nearby Kane      studies the Bible with them, help-          was nervous talking with a former
County Jail every Friday morning to        ing them “pump spiritual iron,” as          governor, but he was as relaxed as an
share the love of Christ with one of       he calls it. Application of biblical        old shoe.
society’s most marginalized popula-        principles is really important, he says,       “What are you doing about visiting
tions.                                     so that there’s less of a chance that the   prisoners?” he asked. “nothing” was
   Jacob is a people person, a trait       inmate will return to prison if he is
that enables him to empathize with         released.
inmates who are separated from their           “We invest time in Bible study to
loved ones. no experience is as isolat-    provide a positive influence and help
ing as prison, Jacob believes, even if     them live courageous Christian lives,”
the inmate is eventually released. “it     he explains. Jacob also encourages
really shakes a person up, being in        the inmates to pray for their families,
prison,” he says.                          even as their families are praying for
   Jacob believes that sharing the         them. “that way,” he says, “they can
gospel with prisoners face to face is      be together spiritually, even if they’re
God’s calling for his life. “Jesus gave    not together physically.”
us a command to be ministers of the            in Jacob’s many years of prison         Don Johnson

                                                                                                                      July 2009 | 7
           Santa Barbara County Jail
            where Don Johnson leads
                 service each month


my answer. “You want to have                                                                i have confessed that i can pay
some fun some Monday night?”                                                                closer attention to those who
he responded. How could i say                                                               have more than to those who
no? A couple months later i                                                                 have less. Being with these men
joined him at the Minnesota cor-                                                            brings perspective to my life in
rectional facility in Lino Lakes,                                                           ministry. it pushes me out the
just north of Minneapolis.                                                                  doors of the church building and
    Governor Quie has been a                                                                into a pretty dingy and desperate
part of Prison Fellowship since                                                             place.
its beginning with Chuck Colson                                                                third, the men are hungry
in 1976. Colson initiated a com-                                                            for God’s word. the services are
munity within the walls of the                                                              voluntary, so those who come
prison called the innerChange                                                               are ready. they sing with gusto,
Freedom initiative where                                                                    often standing with hands in
prisoners apply to live within a                                                            the air and tears running down
Christian community, giving up                                                              their faces. they long to wor-
many of their “freedoms” to live                                                            ship, study, pray, and grow. Being
a life of discipline, prayer, Bible                                                         publicly broken by arrest and
reading, and school work.                                                                   wearing the blue jumpsuits and
    that night with the governor           any notes and usually from a photo-       orange socks and flip-flops is humili-
opened my eyes to the spiritual            copied handout of the Scripture text      ating. there are no pretenses in a jail
vibrancy of prison ministry. Only          because many of the men do not have       service.
one problem existed: no clergy were        Bibles.                                       While i do not have the spiritual
allowed to participate because it              With about fifteen minutes left in    gift-mix of evangelism, i have found
is strictly a lay movement. i could        our hour-long service, Chuck and i        that i am leading more men to faith
recruit people to volunteer, but i could   go to opposite ends of the room and       in Christ in jail services than ever
not join.                                  make ourselves available for individ-     before in my life. it happens naturally
    When we moved to Santa Barbara,        ual prayer with the men. they almost      and often in the prayer times at the
California, in 2005, i was approached      always line up for individual prayer      end when i ask them if they have ever
by a county jail chaplain who basi-        for their families, their approaching     accepted the love and forgiveness of
cally asked me the same thing Gover-       court dates, sobriety, salvation, and     Jesus. if they say no, i ask them if they
nor Quie had asked, only this time he      forgiveness. i put both my hands on       would like to. A number say yes and
said he welcomed clergy as volunteer       their shoulders and we “huddle” for       we pray. that does something for me
chaplains. After going through secu-       prayer together. Often that is the most   as a pastor. it charges up my heart.
rity screening and an introduction to      intense time of the service. When the         Fourth, each time i go to jail, the
the rules of conduct within a jail, i      hour is up, a guard leads us all back     men teach me. On the Sunday after-
was assigned to lead a service about       to the dormitory area where the men       noons that i have a service, i usually
once a month (sometimes more).             go to their bunks and Chuck and i         complain to my wife that i wish i
Another man in the community               make our way out through the many         did not have to go. i’d rather go for
joined me early on, and we now work        locked doors.                             a walk, have dinner, or visit with
together as a team.                            Why do i do this? First, because it   friends. But every time i go, i end up
    At the Santa Barbara County Jail       is a direct command from Jesus (Mat-      feeling deeply grateful to God for the
usually teams of two men or two            thew 25:36). it’s right there in black    privilege of being with the men. they
women are rotated throughout the           and white (maybe red). Doing what         teach me about prayer, patience, suf-
jail for weekly services on Friday         Jesus directly commands does some-        fering, and discipleship. they ask deep
or Sunday nights. Our approach is          thing good to my heart.                   questions and often provide profound
that i am the teacher and my friend            Second, it balances my world. i       insights into life and faith.
Chuck runs the boom box for our            can live in a pretty nice and insu-           i think going to jail makes me a
singing together. (the men really love     lated world. Our kids are grown,          better pastor. it makes me fresher for
to sing!) After about fifteen minutes      and our routine can become pretty         the ongoing work of ministry within
of singing, i “teach” the sermon i         self-absorbed. Living in Santa Barbara    the church. it’s where i need to be. ■
preached at Montecito Covenant             also exposes me to a lot of really nice   Don Johnson is pastor of Montecito Covenant
Church that morning, though without        things and distractions. Over the years   Church in Santa Barbara, California.

8 | The Covenant Companion
                                           liked what she saw. “i didn’t see        sible, especially when others have lost
Lisa Caridine                              just another program getting funds.      faith in them. “their families have
An Assignment                              i could see God at work.” Still, she
                                           adds, “i didn’t know what i was sup-
                                                                                    given up on them; their friends have
                                                                                    given up on them,” Caridine says. She
of Hope                                    posed to do. i didn’t know how i was     adds that part of her task is to get the
                                           going to fit.”                           women “to look to God despite how
By StAn FrieDMAn
                                              A labor attorney with the Chicago     the world looks down upon them.



W
                                           Public Schools, Caridine figured she     You have to get the women to hope.”
            hen Pastor Darrell Griffin
                                           probably would do administrative         it is important, she adds, to help the
            gave Lisa Caridine $100
                                           work, “something in my comfort           women understand that the past does
            and a “kingdom assign-
                                           zone.” eventually, however, she          not determine their destiny.
ment” to do something meaningful
                                           became a mentor to a single mother           BOBL provides counseling and
for others with the money, she knew
                                           in her mid-thirties as part of BOBL’s    other services through organizations
one thing—she was not happy about
                                                                                    such as WellSpring to help the women
it. What she didn’t know was that her
                                                                                    get housing, learn life skills, heal,
life was about to change.
                                                                                    and obtain jobs. Mentors primarily
    “i was kind of taken aback,” she
                                                                                    befriend the women or act as “big
recalls of that day at Oakdale Cov-
                                                                                    sisters” and help them through the
enant Church in Chicago in 2002. “it
                                                                                    process, often just listening. “Many of
was like another thing to do.” Beside,
                                                                                    the women have never had a healthy
she adds, “At the time, i didn’t think i
                                                                                    relationship,” Caridine says.
was up to the assignment. “i thought
                                                                                        eventually the women and mentors
‘I am a kingdom assignment.’”
                                                                                    are both changed by their relation-
    Caridine had no idea how she
                                                                                    ships. Caridine says women have told
should use the money, but Griffin had
                                                                                    her, “i can’t believe you said you got
told the handful of people in the con-
                                                                                    something from me.”
gregation to whom he gave the funds
                                                                                        Caridine says she has received far
that they should pray about it.
                                                                                    more than she ever expected. “it has
    “i prayed five days before i knew
                                                                                    blessed me. it helped me find healing
what to do,” she says. She sensed God
                                                                                    and purpose.”
directing her to Black on Black Love
                                                                                        that purpose has led her to now
(BOBL), an organization that helps         Lisa Caridine
                                                                                    serve on the compassion, mercy, and
women who have been incarcerated.
                                           “My Sister’s Keeper” program. the        justice commission of the Covenant’s
Caridine didn’t know much about
                                           woman had several years of college,      Central Conference. She also plans to
BOBL, but she had heard it men-
                                           “but she had made some bad deci-         get a certificate in justice ministries.
tioned a couple of times in previous
                                           sions,” Caridine says, and wound up          Caridine now encourages others
years.
                                           in jail.                                 who are unsure whether they possess
    She called the organization and
                                              Seven years later, Caridine serves    the necessary skills to do what may
told the woman on the other end of
                                           on the board of directors of BOBL.       feel uncomfortable. “Unless you step
the phone that “i was on a kingdom
                                           She has helped the organization draw     out, you will never know.”
assignment and i wanted to plant a
                                           in funding from a greater variety of         Before that day in 2002, Caridine
seed.” Caridine thought the woman
                                           sources and has connected it with        says she had been a “do-gooder.” She
would think her odd, but she under-
                                           Oakdale Covenant Church and Well-        did volunteer work at various times.
stood and extended an invitation to
                                           Spring Center for Hope, a Covenant       “But i didn’t do it with a kingdom
visit the offices.
                                           ministry to victims of domestic vio-     perspective.” Until then, she had not
    Deciding that she would give
                                           lence. Her family members also have      become so deeply involved.
more than money to the assignment,
                                           become involved. Her mother, Pearl           “this has been a journey,” she
Caridine spent a year checking into
                                           robertson, is the chairperson for the    says. She has learned she was right
different BOBL programs, including
                                           mentoring outreach, and her aunt         about herself when Griffin gave her
motivational programs in the Cook
                                           edna toney is a mentor.                  the money. She has been a kingdom
County Jail, community outreach
                                              Many of the women served by           assignment. ■
programs, and more recently a men-
                                           BOBL are desperate for change but        Stan Friedman is a staff writer for the Depart-
toring program for males. Caridine
                                           struggle to believe a new life is pos-   ment of Communication.

                                                                                                                   July 2009 | 9

								
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