This ministry involves visitation and bible study with inmates at the Kent Correctional Facility. KLC participates with several other Kent area churches of the Kent Ministerial Association. The ministry was initiated in 1988 and KLC has been involved since its inception. Our group visits in the months of May and October where we prepare a worship time comprised primarily of a bible study and recorded music.
The facility is on South Central and houses short term, a week or so, and some rather long term stays of up to a year or so. It is adjacent to the Kent Municipal Court. Meetings are held in the facility’s library; a carpeted and not unpleasant area approximately 25 by 40 feet in area. It is far more comfortable than the cell areas which certainly do not come up to Holiday Inn standards. Those incarcerated are there due to misdemeanors, warrant violations, felony crime, you name it. There are no violent criminals in the facility; it is primarily a holding stage for short term convictions and prisoners in transit.
Visits are held on Sunday afternoons from 2 pm until 4:30, but we often push the closing time a bit. We meet with the men for half the allotted time, close with prayers, and then ask the guard to invite any women to come to the meeting. On average there will be 20 men and 10 women.
The meeting times are far more interesting than the above description of facility and procedures. With music playing the congregation enters dressed in orange, white, or blue prison-issue clothing, and all are welcomed with a handshake and name introduction. Bibles are distributed and when the music finishes further introductions are made concerning that we are from Kent Lutheran Church and what weeks we’ll be there for the services. That done, we begin the lesson plan and, very truly, we can each attest to the fact that no two visits have ever gone the same. Some of the people come ready to participate, eager to read, speak, and discuss, while others remain quiet for most of the time and then may begin to talk. Of course, some remain quiet throughout. It is clear that being incarcerated for any period of time changes one’s perspective. The level of involvement is very, very personal, and feelings expressed can be intense. There is a degree of earnestness in this setting that one rarely sees on the outside. There is personal remorse, regret for lost living and injury to family and friends, and a seeking and determination to reconcile and improve. There is little to do behind bars and thus much time is available to reflect on the past and think about self, family, and friends. “All I know for sure is that I never want to come back here again” is heard frequently. “I need to move on in life and drop my bad habits.” “I must find a way to make up for wasting part of my life.” What we can do is support these commitments with God’s help.
One more thing that each volunteer can witness to is that we come away with more than what we went in with. This may be due to the act of witnessing for Jesus and hearing the Spirit working in these people and in this place. The goal of the ministry is to offer a time to study God’s word and ponder how He is ever present in our lives and in all of us. We pray that our words and actions are pleasing in God’s sight.