For unexplainable reasons, other than the Holy Spirit, women inmates are attending Bible meetings and coming to Christ like never before, a prison ministry reported.
In the past, seven to ten percent of the inmates at a facility would attend the meetings, said Annie Goebel, co-founder of Daughters of Destiny. Now, the ministry is seeing anywhere from 30 to 90 percent of the inmates attending the gathering. This past year alone, more than 20,000 inmates attended the ministry's evangelism events with nearly 7,500 making decisions for Christ.
"We call it a revival in the women's prisons and among women in churches because women are coming in on our website and want to minister to their sisters on the inside," said Goebel to The Christian Post on Tuesday.
The Colorado Springs-based ministry, which is endorsed by Prison Fellowship's Chuck Colson, has about 850 trained volunteers providing ongoing support to 3,711 inmates in 203 detention facilities across 25 states as well as to the 3,488 women who have been released from prison. Some of the released women in turn end up ministering to those behind bars.
Perhaps its success, at least partially, can be attributed to its founders – Annie and Mel Goebel – who both spent time behind bars some twenty years ago. Daughters of Destiny's Full Circle ministry is based on what the Goebels experienced in their own lives, including growing up in broken homes, feeling worthless, and lacking love. The program focuses on leading women out of personal and spiritual brokenness by telling them about God's love and His ability to transform their lives.
"One of the significant approaches of Daughters of Destiny is that we unveil the lies that they have believed," Mel explained. "As we do that, you see the light bulbs go off because many of them have been deceived. As we expose the lies and in the process help them to see how based on those lies they have made poor choices, they begin to see hope and recognize the word of God. They then want to lead better lives because their identity changes when they come to Christ."
The "full circle" is not complete until the released woman is welcomed into the community by a church and a group of Christian women, Mel noted.
Annie Goebel stated that most people do not realize that 90 percent of the women in prisons were abused, mostly as young girls. And more than 80 percent of the cases of abuse is sexual in nature. The Goebels emphasize that the majority of women inmates want to change and many of them are young mothers and wives.
"The women that are incarcerated are usually damaged little girls that feel they have no value, are alone, and unloved," said Annie. "So they are making choices in life based on those beliefs and those choices are very self-destructive."
In addition to the word of God, Mel and Annie's lives also give the women inmates hope. The Goebels were former addicts and prisoners themselves who now have master's degrees, a successful career, and a happy marriage.
The Goebels believe no one is unreachable and God's love extends to the most violent offenders.
Annie recalled that at a Christmas event last year in a large women's prison in Denver, a "mean-looking" woman with a buzz cut and three 6's tattooed over her eyebrow came up to Mel. The woman said she had visited three Daughters of Destiny gatherings even though she did not know why she attended. But she said something changed in her heart that night.
"She was one of the meanest gals in that prison yard and that night she came to the Lord," said Annie. "We just don't know when and how the Holy Spirit will open their eyes to the point where they'll answer yes. All we know is it is our duty to keep going in and keep presenting it (Gospel). Who knows, the first time, the third time, the fifteenth time, the hardest person on the yard, it may be their turn."
This holiday season, the ministry will conduct special prison outreaches that focus on the meaning of Christmas. The outreaches include singing Christmas carols and having supporters send Christmas cards to inmates that are members of Daughters of Destiny.
There are more than 1 million women in the United States who are incarcerated.