The inmates at the Poinsett County jail are hearing the gospel and asking Jesus into their hearts.
Since September, nearly 100 inmates in the Arkansas facility have made professions of faith. Of those, 50 have been baptized by Drover Cowboy Church in Harrisburg.
Pastor Chance Watson said leaders at the church knew they wanted to expand their ministry when they were planning 2022 goals.
“We were to a point as a church where we were doing well in the ministry we were doing, and it was time to expand out into different ministries,” he said.
Embracing a new opportunity
So, at the beginning of 2022, they began the process of getting inside the county jail to share the gospel.
It took several months and perseverance, but they finally started their ministry at the jail in the fall.
“We got started in September, and it has exploded,” Watson said.
Currently, five elders from Drover Cowboy Church rotate visits Sunday afternoon at the prison. The five involved are Watson, Dale Davis, Dave McCulley, Zach Chester and Jeremy Williams.
Watson said Davis had a heart for the prison ministry at the same time God had laid it on his heart for their plans.
“He truly took the lead along with Dave McCulley,” said Watson, adding they have been blown away by how much time is spent praying with the inmates afterward.
“God has just blessed it to the point that they’ve got guys in there now that they take in sheet music to who are learning worship songs.”
Since September, Watson said, three other churches have also joined in the ministry. The other churches include Cornerstone Baptist Church in Harrisburg, Maple Grove Baptist Church in Trumann and First General Baptist Church in Trumann.
Bible studies impacting lives
In addition to the weekly ministry visits, Watson said they are also starting a Bible study during the week for inmates involved in the Arkansas Department of Corrections 309 program.
Watson said some of the long-term prisoners have even started their own Bible studies.
“It’s been a blessing to see it and be a part of it, for sure,” Watson said. “The jailers are coming in on their days off to be a part of Bible study. … It’s having an impact in a lot of different ways.”
Flexibility and an open heart
In giving advice to others who may feel called to the prison ministry, Watson said to go in with an open heart and be consistent.
“You can have a vision, but your vision has to fit into whatever the jail’s policies are,” he said. “You’re going to have to be willing to work within the boundaries of whatever jail you work with. When you are confirmed that God has called you to do that, you’ve got to be flexible and willing to make it work.”
Additionally, Watson encouraged building relationships with inmates and jailers alike. He said relationships with the jailers have gone a long way in terms of the church having freedom to do things like bringing a baptism tank.
“It has been very humbling to see what God has done,” he said.
For additional information about jail and prison ministry, visit https://www.absc.org/ministries/by-team/jail-and-prison-ministry/.