What do you get when you bring together prison ministries from around the nation? Ministry beyond imagination! In April Child Evangelism Fellowship hosted the biannual face to face meeting of Prison Fellowship’s Operation Starting Line, a collaboration of 30 prison ministries. CEF has been a part of this collaboration since 2004. Several prison events were organized so that the ministries would have an opportunity to serve together.
The first event was a party for children of inmates led by Ann Edenfield Sweet (Wings). Approximately 90 participants that included children and their caregivers, volunteers and staff from Prison Fellowship, Wings, Camp David of the Ozarks and CEF helped lead the children in high energy child-focused activities. Some of the activities included a balloon bounce and balloon popping contest; singing accompanied by Good News Club worthy actions; an Easter relay; a reenactment of Holy week; and crafts such as bookmarks and fruit loop necklaces. One particular craft was making butterflies out of newspaper. As the children worked on this craft, they were reminded that God uses things that seem to be useless and makes them into something beautiful.
Many of the children said that reenacting the Holy week was their favorite part of the day. Ann directed and narrated the play as the colorfully costumed children and volunteers acted out the scenes. The Gospel was clearly shared and the children were part of it.
Ben, the director of Camp David, played Jesus. Here he is being taken to the cross.
The day ended with a meal and prayer as we all went our separate ways.
The next event was on Sunday, April 6, 2014. Representatives from four of the collaborating OSL ministries along with CEF staff and interns worshipped alongside the inmates at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in Pacific, Mo. Worship behind bars is an amazing experience. CEF Prison Ministry staff member Sandy Bunch says, “Rick and I always tell people, ‘You haven’t truly worshipped until you’ve worshipped in prison.’” The inmates hold nothing back as they raise their voices to their Savior. They know what grace is and understand the full meaning of forgiveness and redemption. Their gratitude shows in their demeanor and it is a privilege to witness.
Art Hallett of Evangelism Explosion International and Mike Benson of The Conquerors International shared their talents as they challenged the men to be the best fathers they could be regardless of their incarceration. It was presented to them that even though they are not able to play ball with their child or help them tie their shoes, they are able to make a difference in their child’s life by introducing them to Jesus Christ through the Truth Chasers Club correspondence Bible courses. All inmates in attendance received a What Went Wrong? booklet so that they could enroll their children.
This was CEF’s third visit to the facility. Thus far 244 prisoners from this facility have enrolled themselves and their children in the TCC. We are anticipating many more enrollments due to this weekend’s efforts.
The weekend was rounded off with an event at the Girardot Center for Boys in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Again the CEF interns led the group of 15 boys and several of the center’s staff in worship. This was followed by Art Hallett and Mike Benson sharing their talents once more. The youth enjoyed the program and were especially impressed by Mike’s testimony and feats of strength. The wonder of rolling a skillet into the shape of a burrito was evident on their faces as they watched in awe.
Marsha Ward, the office support assistant steno at the center writes, “I want to thank everyone who came here to minister to the boys. It was awesome! The boys’ lives will be forever changed because of the seeds planted. The boys are still talking about it.” Along with Mike’s testimony, they loved Art’s reggae rendition of his song, One More Night with the Frogs.
Art gave an invitation and several youth made commitments for Christ. Later after his presentation, Mike asked those who raised their hands to stand up and commit to making a stand for Christ. All but three youth stood up. Included in those who stood were two staff members of the Girardot Center. Four youth came forward to pray for deliverance from addiction.
The Holy Spirit was present in each event and it was an amazing time of ministering! It was clear that God has knitted each ministry into its proper place. Some of the ministries work with inmates while they are still incarcerated. Some work with them as they try to successfully reenter society. Others work with the inmates’ children. Regardless of these differences, all work toward one common goal, sharing the love of Christ with all of those involved in the events. Many of the collaborators go in, do their ministry and then leave. However, they distribute our What Went Wrong? booklets and starter lessons to those they work with. They know that we take over where they leave off by discipling them through the Truth Chasers Club. In a way, we take their ministry to the next level, proving that OSL’s statement “Together we can do more” is true.
We as staff with Child Evangelism Fellowship regularly visit churches and explain the incredible opportunity we have to share the Gospel in public elementary schools through the after-school Good News Club. Sometimes a pastor will say, “Wow, we agree with you 100 percent! What do we have to do to get started?”
For many people the Child Evangelism Fellowship® Easter Conference in Portrush, Ireland has been a place of Bible teaching, focus on missions, worship and fellowship.
April 10-13 marked the fourth GUIDE RETREAT on the campus of Child Evangelism Fellowship. This free event occurs twice each year—once in the spring and once in the fall. The next GUIDE RETREAT is scheduled for October 2-5, 2014.
The TRAINING of individuals multiplies our ministry and enables us to reach many more children with the Gospel than we otherwise could. For the past eight years we have trained over 250,000 TEACHERS annually. Training is vital if we are to see more children reached for His glory.
EQUIPPING our workers with quality literature is ESSENTIAL to effective outreach. Our regional directors confirm that one of the reasons we have been able to expand ministry each of the past ten years is because of the literature being provided FREE OF CHARGE to trained teachers. We are also distributing literature in the USA at NO COST to hundreds of thousands of children.