Prison Chaplains Across Texas Thank the Texas Conference for Boxes of Carefully Chosen Kid-Teen-and-Adult-Friendly Bibles
Inmates and their visiting families will enjoy an assortment of new Bibles this year, thanks to the generous 2015 mission offering from delegates and their home churches at last year’s conference.
Delegates and entire congregations will be blessed knowing that their 2015 mission contribution to “Restore Lives with the Word of Life” is now helping to fund the purchase of Bibles for children of inmates and for Disciple Bible Study packets for life-changing impact within the prison walls. The offering in excess of $20,000 has helped purchase and ship Bibles to prisons and jails in every district of the conference – which is even more impactful in light of the statistic that Texas incarcerates more people than any state in the United States. While some of these materials will be used by adults, this is yet another example of a conference-wide demonstration of Investing in the Young.
According to Restorative Justice Committee chair Rev. Mark Pickett, when families and criminal justice system employees are included in the statistics, the Texas prison system impacts more than 1 million people. When a person is incarcerated, the entire family is impacted, possibly losing the income of the family’s bread winner that leads to the remaining family members spiraling into poverty. They often become homeless and face other significant challenges. Adds Mark, “Many children are faced with the pain and shame of visiting their parent in a prison visitation room.”
“What’s significant about the gift of these Bibles throughout the Conference,” notes Restorative Justice Committee Chairman Rev. Mark Pickett, "is that, not only was the dollar amount significant, but a lot of time and effort was invested selecting a prison for each district. The Center of Missional Excellence determined which organization needed what kind of Bibles, including the Harris County Jail, which is one of the largest in the country, and how to follow TDCJ policy to ship the Bibles to each unit. Each district now has a prison to follow up with if they choose to do so. Perhaps getting coloring books and crayons into the visitation rooms can be the next step."
“It was a challenge to get contact information from prisons in each district and decide what and where to order,” notes Shirley Broome of the TAC Center for Missional Excellence, “and to package them according to very strict prison mail guidelines, but it is a great feeling to know so many from across our conference helped make this happen for youngsters, teens and families touched by prison in some way.” Shirley handpicked a combination of illustrated Bibles geared to pre-schoolers as well as special versions ideal for readers and teens – Spanish Bibles were shipped for Hispanic families. Some of the materials will be placed in reading rooms and waiting areas and some will be used for inmate groups doing Bible studies, but all are intended to “Restore Lives with the Word of Life.”
“A special shout out needs to go to the manager of Lifeway Christian Books in the Willowbrook area,” notes Shirley, “who helped us with a significant discount for the bibles while also meeting the tedious details of sorting and shipping to prison units in the midst of the bookstore's busy holiday season." Rev. Diane McGehee, TAC’s Director of Missional Excellence adds, “This mission project was a great way to touch many lives and to help with the hard tasks Chaplains handle daily to teach the incarcerated about the love of Christ.”
"Getting God’s Word into the hands of inmates and their children is an act of worship by the Texas Annual Conference that is going up into the heavens as a sweet sacrifice,” adds Mark. "I am so pleased to be part of that offering and the Texas Conference that understands the importance of ministry to inmates, their children and families as well as victims and people who work in the Criminal Justice system."