Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Ministry of Words

Editor's Note: Today I am pleased to welcome Debbie, who blogs at, as she writes about her ministry of literature with prison inmates.  Thanks Debbie!

It all started when a woman came up to me in church and said, “I heard that you write to military personal in Iraq. Would you write to my nephew? He’s in prison.” I knew little about prisons and inmates, but I didn’t see why not. Before long, I was co-leading a new jail and prison ministry at my church and had become pen pals with Christian inmates from all over the state.

The inmates told me, “All I have is time. Even the jobs they give us don’t take long, so we’re sitting around bored out of our minds.” I love to read, so I asked if they’d like my church’s ministry to send them the books I was done reading. “Yes! Please!” was the eager response.  Some inmates, especially those new in their faith, wanted Bible studies and Christian living books that would strengthen their faith. Others wanted fiction to pass the time.

One inmate was sent some books on how we know the Bible is true from the very first verse. He wrote back expressing his appreciation. About a month later, he wrote again to say that he’d been falsely accused of something and sent to solitary confinement as punishment. He said that because of the books I had sent, he knew the Bible was true. He hadn’t lost his faith. But he’d thought that once he became a Christian, things like this wouldn’t happen. We discussed the reasons why Christians still face conflict and crises, and I pointed out several people in the Bible (like Joseph in Genesis) that were falsely accused and suffered for a while. This inmate is steadily growing stronger in his faith.

Another inmate primarily requests Christian novels. He told me that he doesn’t read the Bible much because it’s "too convicting". However, several times he’s said that through reading literature he realizes that his view of God is sometimes wrong. Reading also fills his time in a positive way, so that he has less time to meditate on resentful or depressed thoughts that often lead to getting in trouble.

I was already thinking about starting a book blog when it occurred to me that becoming a book reviewer would enable me to provide more books to the inmates. I donate the review copies I receive to my church’s ministry, and they’re sent to the prisoners. 

Novels like Pearl in the Sand by Tessa Afshar are popular with the inmates because the characters have realistic problems, difficult pasts, and come to understand and accept God’s forgiveness. I believe that every time we read a story where a character is transformed by truth, a part of us can be transformed right along side them. I can’t wait to see how God will use this novel and others in the inmate’s lives.


  1. I loved Pearl in the Sand and can definitely agree.

  2. Awesome way to reach out to those in prison.

  3. Thank you for posting this! This is a wonderful idea.


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