The Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation of Grand Rapids, Michigan has been serving the Kent County Correctional Facility, in Grand Rapids, for nearly twelve years. We have the privilege of bringing the gospel message to inmates who perhaps have never heard sound gospel messages in their lives.
Approximately 26,000 inmates are processed through this local jail facility each year. Our church has three different opportunities to bring the gospel to the incarcerated:
- Every Sunday afternoon we meet with a group of volunteers from various churches at the jail. These men have special security clearances that allow us to minister in areas that other groups would not be permitted to enter. After praying together to ask for God’s blessing upon our labors, we proceed to either the maximum-security section (which houses inmates awaiting trial or sentencing for murder, federal crimes, or crimes of like nature) or to the sick bay area (which houses inmates who are suicidal, or have mental disabilities—often due to substance abuse). Communicating with prisoners in the maximum-security section must be done by speaking through the bars of their cells. Inmates who are in the sick bay have a more formal service during which the speakers are locked in a room with several inmates at a time.
- Every Tuesday evening, we lead a group Bible study. Some of these men were brought up with a Bible in the home and some were not, but most of them have many questions.
- We also hold regular services at the jail about once a month. Several of us take turns in leading the worship services. These services are held in sections where the inmate population is not as much of a threat to each other or to the safety of those bringing them the gospel message. We are locked into a day room with several inmates at a time. These services are quite similar to our worship services. We begin with singing, then proceed with Scripture reading, prayer, a scriptural message, closing prayer, and if time permits, we conclude with more singing. The inmates are attentive and appreciative that we care for them and their spiritual welfare.
It is a privilege to be able to minister to these people, especially when we witness what the Word, by God’s Spirit, can do. We acknowledge that it is not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord that any will be saved. It is humbling to see a rough inmate in tears, asking, “What must I do to be saved? I don’t want to live this way anymore. I am so tired of sinning!” May the Lord richly bless the labors of love spent for the souls of the prisoners.