Inspiring Prison Ministry Story from Oklahoma City
by: Stafford North | January 3, 2018
On a Saturday morning, December 9, I had the opportunity to go with a group of seven to the Oklahoma County jail where they were to baptize nineteen into Christ. These people had been taught the previous months through correspondence courses and personal visits. The Memorial Road Church of Christ in Oklahoma City uses a plan in which people complete a set of correspondence lessons by working with a person who grades their papers and writes them notes. When they finish these lessons, the prisoner is asked if he or she wants to be baptized or to visit with someone about spiritual matters. If they say “yes,” then someone cleared to work inside the jail goes to see them. The jail officials allow the prison workers to go in once a month to baptize those who are ready.
My wife is very active in this jail ministry, often making two visits a week. The contact as she and others teache the person is not as personal as they would like since they must stand in front of a TV camera and monitor on one floor and talk to the person who is standing in front a camera and monitor on another floor. They can see and hear each other but only through the TV camera. But since this is the only possibility allowed for such visits, she and others make it work. Two of those to be baptized on this particular Saturday were people with whom she had studied. She has been going to these baptisms almost every month for over fifteen years.
There was, however, something very special about the baptisms this month. Nine of those to be baptized had been taught by a prisoner who had been baptized in the jail seven months before. The other prisoners had nicknamed him “the preacher.” Jerry Way, the prison minister for the Memorial Road Church of Christ, told about this event in the congregation’s bulletin: “As I studied with the nine men, they each commented that they had heard sermons in the jail before, but this was the first time they saw a sermon. The “preacher” had lived among them, faced their daily grind, and responded to the pressure with joy. The preacher did more than just preach. He ministered to individuals who struggled with jail life, family problems, and faith issues. This thirty-four year old “preacher” may have to serve twenty years in prison, but has determined to serve a life sentence as a prisoner of Christ.”
The actual baptizing process goes like this. The group carries to the jail a portable baptistery which has a frame that comes in pieces and once it is put together they place vinyl bag inside it which will hold water about two feet deep. They are allowed to set up this apparatus in a hallway next to a room that has hot running water. Using a hose, they put water in the bag. The guards bring the people to be baptized in groups of about eight or fewer. These go into a small room made available to put on the baptismal clothing which the workers have brought for them and then, one at a time, they sit in the water held in the vinyl bag. After the usual words are spoken, they are laid backward to be covered by the water. Excitement is clearly present as each one is immersed. When the group is done, the person in charge, Jerry Way, then speaks to the group to encourage them and to instruct them about their new life. He also gives each one a packet of information about the church and their new life in Christ.
Similar jail and prison ministries around the country each year are bringing hundreds to know Christ. What good news that these are following the admonition of Jesus in Matthew 25 to visit those in prison.
To contact Jerry Way about materials or methods to use in jails or prisons, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.