prison ministry

A bit of ‘colour’ inside

'Prison life is deprivation... Connections with nature are missing in the too-small, brick-and-wire yard, where you might get to spend an hour.' (Image by falco/Pixabay)

I like to bring simple card-making supplies into the secure unit of the Edmonton Institution for Women. The inmates enjoy the chance to be creative but, more than that, they crave an opportunity to make something to send to family on the outside. Life stories bubble up as they write in the cards, and I listen.

A daughter named Genesis

'I left the jail one Monday morning last month feeling a heaviness that I have not felt in some time.' (Image by Fifaliana Joy/Pixabay)

I left the jail one Monday morning last month feeling a heaviness that I have not felt in some time.

I don’t go there each Monday with some big agenda—I’m not there to reform or convert or instruct, but to listen, to pray, to encourage. But most days, I get a glimpse of goodness through a conversation, a smile, a new insight into the human heart and the human predicament.

Not that day, though.

Paying attention to the invisible

Six women from Charleswood lead a Bible study for the inmates at the Women’s Correctional Centre in Headingley, Man., on the first Wednesday of every month. (Government of Manitoba photo)

Every month, several women from Charleswood Mennonite Church in Winnipeg go to jail. But unlike the women they meet with behind bars, they get to walk out of the barbed wire fences and go safely to their homes at the end of the night.

The Holy Spirit transforms prison

Inmates in Asuncion’s infamous Tacumbú Prison participate in La Libertad Church, a ministry of the Mennoniten Brüder Gemeinde Concordia in Paraguay. (Photo courtesy of Ignacio Chamorro Ramirez)

“My members are rapists, kidnappers, murders and fraudsters—all washed by the blood of Jesus our Lord,” says Pastor Ignacio Chamorro Ramírez.

Chamorro is director of an integrated transformation program and pastor of La Libertad (Freedom) Church in Paraguay’s overcrowded Tacumbú national penitentiary. But he was once a prisoner like the men he serves.

An uncommon welcome

That mystery is made real every Sunday at the communion table of Grace chapel, where everyone can partake in the broken body of Christ, and where Patterson’s offence matters less than his presence. (Illustration by Dan Johnson)

Will Braun

“As part of my probation conditions, I have to stay away from places where there are families,” says Joe Patterson, “so that made finding a church hard.”

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