The word ‘prison’ brings a negative connotation to our ears, doesn’t it? For the most part, avoiding prison is an honorable goal. Not for some students at Campbellsville University. Maggie Parrish, Hannah Vinson, Claire Edwards, Ashley Sheetz, and Caitlin Gage all braved through the stereotype of prison by visiting inmates at Hernando Correctional Institution during their Spring Break. Led by Tina Propes, they went into the prison two times each day for five days in a row.
The prison stereotype was broken as soon as the group arrived. Maggie Parrish described this accurately when she stated, “The Holy Spirit had an undeniable presence throughout the whole week, and God’s love broke down every single barrier that society tries to build up.” All the ladies inside are welcoming and show great love towards everyone that comes inside.
The majority of the time was spent connecting with the inmates through sporting events and chapel services. Volleyball, basketball, kickball, and football were the major sports played during the visit. Athleticism is not a requirement of the trip. You only need a heart to serve Jesus Christ. Our main goal was to share the love of Jesus Christ with those beautiful ladies. Many of them reciprocated that love back to us and encouraged us in our journey of faith as well. Ashley Sheetz reviewed this engaging relationship by saying, “We got to share with the ladies about the love of Christ and the ladies got to share with us about the true change a person can have.” On average about 50 ladies would come out to play with us with an additional 50 or more watching from the sidelines. The team would take turns playing the games and/or conversing with those on the sidelines while play continued. Each conversation planted seeds for the ministering of God’s word and rewarded us with beautiful stories of God’s grace being manifested in their lives. Hannah Vinson summarized these meaningful interactions by saying this about the trip, “A true picture of how God truly dwells among His people and uses each of them to grow the kingdom!”
In between games, Claire Edwards and Maggie Parrish would share their own testimonies or devotions with the group. They desired to remind everyone of their identity in Jesus Christ and remind them of the shame that He has forgiven everyone of that we no longer need to live in. These devotions would end in a prayer circle with everyone joining together and holding hands in one accord. Claire has gone on several Sports Reach prison ministry trips into women’s prison over the past few years. She shared, “Getting to go on this trip and share Jesus with these ladies year after year has changed my life, and the Lord has shown me so much about myself and His character through this ministry.”
For two nights, the group was able to lead a couple of chapel services thanks to an ongoing relationship with their Chaplain. Songs were sung, messages taught, testimonies shared, and many tears were shed while praying with these ladies over trying times in their lives. Praying for whatever it takes for themselves or loved ones to overcome doubts, fears, addiction, homosexuality, obscene language, or any other sins in their lives. Around 60 ladies came to each of the chapel services to worship our Lord and Savior along with the group.
For one visit, the group was blessed to attend a church service led by the inmates alongside the Chaplain. This service was an amazing example of how to worship God no matter your circumstance.
A total of around 450 inmates populate Hernando Correctional Institution. An estimated 150 inmates participated and interacted with our Sports Reach group within the five days that we were blessed to enter inside the prison. Though many of those who came are already followers of Jesus Christ, some of them are not. The group asks that you pray for those who do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Additionally, pray for those who have accepted Jesus but need strength in their current situations to stay on His path and spread His great news to their family and friends.
For more information about this trip or knowledge of how to join us on the next trip please contact Tina Propes. You can text or call her at 270-528-6145.
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