The largest prison outreach ministry is for the first time bringing students to its annual Easter service behind bars.
With a growing student ministry, Prison Fellowship made a push this year to invite college students to minister with them in the hallways of a prison. Students from university and theological seminary campuses in Michigan, Indiana, Virginia and Ohio will be heading to two prison institutions housing males and females on Easter weekend. Inmates at the London Correctional Institution and the Ohio Reformatory for Women, both of which have around 2,000, will be paid Easter cell visits by the students and more than 50 volunteers with Prison Fellowship.
"Many people are more receptive to the Gospel at Easter because Easter revolves around the most powerful event in human history," Prison Fellowship President Mark Earley told The Christian Post on Thursday. "I think it's an excellent time to understand who [Jesus] is for their life."
The Easter message will be preached at both the male and female prisons on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Services will be preceded by a roundtable discussion where students will have the chance to converse with both prisoners and workers in the institutions "to get a better understanding of prison life" - how prisoners ended up behind bars and what transformations and rehabilitation are taking place, according to Earley.
Several hundred inmates typically attend the Easter service annually.
"We see transformed lives of those behind bars everyday," said Earley.
More than an opportunity to be saved for the next life, prison outreach provides inmates the chance to "be saved and really experience transformation in this life."
Such a transformation occurred with James Tramel. Believed to be the first inmate ordained as an Episcopal priest, Tramel was released last month after serving around 20 years in prison. The convicted murderer turned priest was granted parole by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and is now serving as an assistant pastor at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Berkeley.
Tramel's case reflects how God has worked through the weak, criminals and even "religious terrorists" like the Apostle Paul to raise them up to become some of the noblest vessels for His use, said Earley
"Our vision is really that God is raising up a new generation of leaders for his church and the community from behind prison walls."