Prison Fellowship Events Turn Hundreds of Inmates to Christ in California
By Grace Oshiro - Crossmap On June 19, 2012
Evangelist Andrew Palau delivers a message to inmates at Folsom State Prison.
Prison Fellowship recently brought the gospel to the thousands of prisoners in Northern California through a number of special events held with the Luis Palau Association.
Around 5,000 inmates heard the Gospel message and about 500 of them accepted Christ as their savior during a tour of five Sacramento-area institutions, which kicked off on June 9 and concluded on June 14, according to Rick Atchley, Prison Fellowship's field director for Northern California.
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"Everybody was thrilled. The staff was very pleased with the way things happened. The inmates, obviously, were overjoyed ... it's been a great campaign," Atchley told The Christian Post.
Many events were held within a less than a week in prisons such as "old" Folsom State Prison, "new" Folsom, Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center, California State Prison, Solano and the Sacramento County Juvenile Hall. Operation Starting Line(OSL), a part of Prison Fellowship, collaborated closely with Luis Palau Association over the year 2011 to prepare this event.
Main speakers include renowned evangelist Andrew Palau and Prison Fellowship President Garland Hunt. In addition to these, PF volunteers brought BMX bikes, a NASCAR race car, musical instruments and enough
equipment to build a fully functional performance stage in order to make the campaign large and powerful. Inmates had a chance to watchChristian comedies, BMX bike riders performing tricks. One singer, Tim Kepler, impressed audience as he was previously incarcerated there.
OSL also gave attention to the prison officers and staff members. They went to the prisons in the week leading up to the events and hosted "staff appreciation days." Snacks and drinks were served for the officers and other prison staff members as an expression of gratitude for their participation.
"You typically walk past the officers, the staff members, to minister to the prisoners ... and so when they see us walking past them to minister to the inmates, I think sometimes it builds up some resentment," said Atchley. "In fact, in their hearts and their spirit they're saying, 'Hey, we need Jesus too. We need help too.'"
Atchley says it is important for Christians to understand that there is a Christian presence within many prisons already, and prisoners are often more receptive to the Gospel message because of the conditions they live in.
"They have a better chance of getting it because they can't hide behind a job, or a nice car, or nice clothes. They've got somebody else's blue clothes that 10 other people wore before they did. They've lost everything ... they're stripped to nothing. So there's nothing to hide behind," he said.
He also believes Christians who have been in prison serve as the "perfect ambassadors" to current inmates and to the communities that they return to when they finish serving their sentence.
The Urban Ministry Institute(TUMI) is a program formed for that reason by Prison Fellowship and World Impact. TUMI was made to train Christian Leaders among the prisoners and transform them from "prisoners into pastors."
A TUMI program has now been opened in Folsom State Prison.