ST. LOUIS - Reed Hanna of St. Louis knows prison routine firsthand. Convicted of violating a prisoner's civil rights, the former federal deputy served time. Both as an officer and as an inmate, Hanna saw the effect prison has on offenders and on their families.
Understanding the toll, Hanna started Project Jericho, a ministry that walks with an offender and the family even before the individual walks through prison gates.
When the ministry learns of an impending incarceration, Hanna or a volunteer meets with the individual to help him or her and the family understand the criminal justice process. The volunteer shares information about services available through government and other agencies.
After an individual is incarcerated, the ministry tries to help coordinate additional services the family might need, either through an agency or through a church. Congregations assist by encouraging volunteerism and making monetary gifts.
Some churches participate in ministries such as Prison Fellowship, launched by the late Charles Colson after he served federal time for his role in the Watergate cover-up as part of President Richard Nixon's administration.
The ministry provides a variety of services, including Bible studies, for inmates and families. Many congregations participate in Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree ministry to provide gifts for inmates' children at Christmas. Sometimes participation leads to ministry throughout the year.
Christian bikers often lead their churches to participate in ministry to inmates and families. Many biker organizations, such as the Christian Motorcycle Association, minister to inmates. Through local chapters, Baptists like Mel and Rose Callahan organize motorcycle shows or demonstrations at prison complexes.
Many individuals, including Callahan, visit prisons and jails regularly to lead Bible studies and offer friendship.
Related articles and resources:Matthew 25 lifestyle: You served me... (PDF list of representative agencies carrying out Matthew 25-type ministries)