“Two words that break my heart regarding prison inmates are unwanted and unworthy,” said Lauri, head of the Prison Ministry at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Lauri asked that her last name not be used.
“God does not consider these people unwanted or unworthy. Through our ministry we offer them God’s hope, love and redemption. God is blessing and changing lives, not only for inmates, but congregation members too. Many thank us for opening their eyes and giving them the opportunity to reach out to those who are so often forgotten.”
“This ministry came about because several families in the Redeemer congregation are affected by incarceration, my family being one of them,” Lauri continued. “It was started to turn a situation that is devastating for many families into something positive and hopeful, something that glorifies God. I was very fortunate to meet Lisa and Gary Cram, both are ordained pastors and teach faith-based life skills in the Orange County jails. Lisa helped me understand how truly important it is to have Bibles available to inmates in jail. God put it on my heart to have a Bible drive; we did our first one nine years ago. I introduced it to the congregation, and it must have touched people’s hearts because we had amazing donations, and bought an amazing number of Bibles.”
Lauri said because of the congregation’s generosity, they gave the largest single donation of Bibles ever given to the Orange County jail. When the Bibles are received, they are stamped, dedicated, given to the Crams and distributed to the inmates through the Cram’s Prelude Foundation.
Over the years, the Redeemer congregation has given over 1,000 Bibles to the jail system.
Last Sunday began the church’s annual Bible Drive which provides additional funds for Bibles.
“The kids love dropping coins into the big jar over the summer,” Lauri’s husband David said. “Sometimes they fundraise or sometimes they give part of their allowances.”
“The children understand where the money is going, and they look forward to it every summer,” Lauri said. “When the Bibles come, the kids help us stamp them with preprinted stamps with a Bible verse and information about Redeemer. Then they load them back in the boxes and once a year when the Bibles are ready to go out, Pastor Lisa comes to Redeemer and speaks. We put the boxed Bibles on the altar and our pastor David Juelfs prays for them. The kids lay their hands on the Bibles for the blessing; it is very touching.”
Lauri’s husband David said they receive positive feedback from inmates, sometimes immediately and sometimes later.
“One inmate had the Bible for two years, and reached out to us because of our stamp inside,” David said. “He had no where else to turn. He was in prison north of LA where another family member had an inmate, so when a church elder visited that family member’s inmate, he visited the other inmate too, and shared the gospel with him. He became a believer and we stay in touch with him. He knows he has a church family that supports him. You never know who you can ultimately touch through giving a Bible.”
Other components of the Prison Ministry are: Angel Tree, which provides Christmas gifts to children with an incarcerated parent; Heart Cards, where children make and send homemade cards; Serving California, which helps inmates with the challenges of reentry; and Prison University Project, a college program at San Quentin.
“Our prison ministry is small, but it’s a wonderful ministry and I have been blessed to be involved,” Lauri said.
Redeemer Presbyterian meets Sundays in Temple Bat Yahm. For further information, visit redeemeroc.org
Cindy can be reached at [email protected]