Tuesday, July 9, 2019

DC28:20 graduation at KCIW

On July 8th, Kurt Sauder, my wife Tonia, and I were honored to attend the graduation for a “DC28:20” group at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women (KCIW) in Pewee Valley. Renee Patterson and Rachael Buschman did a terrific job in leading a group of ten ladies through DC28:20—Getting Equipped for its 36 weeks, their first experience with prison ministry.

The ten ladies studied about two hours per week and met weekly to have a facilitated discussion of the week’s material. Along the way, they studied a variety of topics that are crucial to developing a Christian worldview—everything from the humanity and deity of Christ to applications such as managing conflict, work, and evangelism.

DC28:20 includes Bible reading and then a discussion of what the Spirit has shown each person. (Over the 36 weeks, they read the entire New Testament, Proverbs, and a sampling of Psalms.) During the testimony part of the graduation, many of the ladies talked about reading the Bible more regularly and learning how to apply it to their lives. In the Church, we often encourage people to read their Bibles. But too often, we don’t help them enough with accountability or applicability.

DC28:20 also includes Bible memory. Many ladies mentioned particular verses that had impacted them. “Grow in the grace and knowledge” (II Peter 3:18) was mentioned a few times—along with Hebrews 4:12 and II Timothy 2:15. Jeannie quoted Ephesians 4:2 which was probably helpful to her on a daily basis: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

We heard the usual array of blessings from their time in a DC group. Stevie found confidence to share her faith. Jeannie and Lily learned how to persevere through the 36 weeks. Jenny said she understood God much better—not just as Savior but as Friend. Many of them enjoyed the group as a family. In terms of the need for discipleship with Jesus, it turns out that there’s amazingly little difference between those inside and outside the walls of a prison.

The most staggering thread in the testimonies (and learning more details from Renee and Rachael): all of them had troubled family lives and many had fathers or other prominent men in their lives who were absent or abusers. This is where the group’s “shepherd” was so helpful. Dale Clover was there every week as someone with experience in prison ministry. (He had co-led a DC group at Luther Luckett.)

We thought that a male presence would be helpful for a few reasons. But we did not anticipate that God would use Dale’s graciousness as a father figure in such a transformative way. There were many tears of joy at the celebration, but the most powerful moments were centered around the ladies experiencing a godly man and gaining a new and greatly improved view of their good, good Father.

Southeast and Further Still Ministries picked up the tab for the books. And Southeast paid for the graduation meal. (Thanks to both!) Renee and Rachael had asked what the ladies wanted to eat. The only request was fresh fruits and vegetables. I watched a lady eat (and enjoy) a blueberry for the first time. Another lady said that she hadn’t eaten a radish in 34 years. (I joked, “me neither”!) It was wonderful but sobering to watch them enjoy the basics that we take for granted.

Aside from blueberries and radishes, the six of us were able to leave the prison and enjoy our freedom after the event—while the ladies continue to “pay their debt to society”. Kara mentioned Galatians 5:1,13 as a favorite memory passage and talked about finding freedom in prison. How often are inmates freer than those on the outside? Let us make sure to use our freedom to pursue spiritual freedom and spread that freedom to others.

Names have been changed to protect anonymity.


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