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EU Prison Ministry Awareness Week

Campus club seeks to educate others about prison system

Prison Ministry’s Awareness Week occured from Oct. 27 to Oct. 31. The club had a table advertising Angel Tree sponsorship and sold t-shirts, and also had two guest speakers share their testimonies during the week. This week was significant for the club because it was a chance to inform the Eastern community about the club’s ministry, the U.S. prison system and the Angel Tree sponsorship. Mariah Volk, the president of Prison Ministry, claimed that the purpose for this week was “to educate the campus of the importance of our ministry as well as…the injustices of the prison system.” Prison Ministry also has a desire to provide an example of Christ to inmates, comfort and spiritual guidance for inmates’ children and family members, and fellowship together as a club.

Club VP Sam Purcell raising awareness for Prison Ministry's Angel Tree ministry.Tanaisha Coleman | The Waltonian

Club VP Sam Purcell raising awareness for Prison Ministry’s Angel Tree ministry.

The theme for Prison Ministry’s Awareness Week was “Break Every Chain.” The symbolism behind this theme was breaking the chains that confine the inmates that the club supports. Volk stated that the club “wants to break the chains that figuratively bind the prisoners; whether it is their past or the stereotypes against them, the fact that they are often forgotten, or their life in loneliness and darkness.”

The scripture used during this week was Isaiah 61:1 and it outlined the club’s hope to express feelings of love and acceptance towards the inmates and their families in a similar fashion as that of Christ. The verse reads, “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (English Standard Version).

Students can participate in Angel Tree by choosing a child’s wish-list from the tree, and multiple students can sponsor a child. The only requirement is that students purchase a present for their sponsored child. Prison Ministry takes care of delivering the gifts to the children’s homes, so participants just bring the gifts to club members once purchased. These gifts fill the void of abandonment, loneliness and shame an inmate’s child may feel on Christmas. “It is so powerful when these men get a letter from their children and in it they read how much of an impact these gifts meant to them that were delivered to them,” said David Garlock, a member of the club. The deadline for the sponsorship is Nov. 20, as students are allowed to sign up even after the Awareness Week. Last year, when the club began participating in Angel Tree, Prison Ministry gave eight children 20 gifts per child.

Prison Ministry Awareness Week allowed Prison Ministry to have two guest speakers that provided personal insight about prison education and ministry in prison. The first guest speaker was Noelle Brown. On Oct. 28, she noted how important education was for inmates by disclosing her experience of teaching in a prison. The second guest speaker was Raj Lewis, on Oct. 29, who discussed recidivism, the process of a person relapsing into criminal behavior. He stated the problems associated with recidivism in addition to ways it can be reduced, and also touched on the Biblical standpoint for ministry in prison.

Currently, Prison Ministry has 20 members, and the club meets every Tuesday at 8pm in HHC 203. The president is Mariah Volk, a junior Social Work major, and the vice president is Sam Purcell, a junior Criminal Justice major. If you have any questions, contact Volk at mvolk1@eastern.edu.

Prison Ministry strives to show inmates, their children and their families compassion by writing letters to inmates, providing inmates’ children with gifts for Christmas, and spreading awareness about the US prison system in order to follow in the footsteps of Christ.

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