Since February the School of Christ has been going to Rikers Island—New York City’s main jail complex. There are nine different prisons on the island, but we have concentrated on one, the Otis Bantum Correctional Center. It is by far the worst prison on Rikers Island. It is not like any prison I have been in before. Its America’s Lurigancho Prison (located in Lima, Peru), very violent and filthy. A recent article in the New York Observer stated that the CIA was going to investigate the practice known as “splashing” at Rikers. This is where prisoners throw urine, blood, feces, and worse, at guards. The city is planning to spend $700,000 of this year’s budget to find out exactly what kind of nasty fluids inmates are flinging at correctional officers. This disgusting practice is a felony, and the proposed tests would help investigators find necessary evidence to punish offenders. This is the situation at Rikers.
In February, the largest attendance at any of our services was eight inmates. This month when we returned we had sixty inmates. That is the largest crowd the prison has ever had in a religious meeting! In every service there were interruptions. In the last service the guards shut us down forty minutes early. They had received a tip that one of the inmates in the service was about to be taken out by a gang who was waiting for him. Despite all the interruptions, God moved in a great way. The worship, led by brothers and sisters from Times Square Church in NYC, was awesome. We had two ex-convicts and retired NYC detectives testify; then I preached. About two-thirds of the men made a commitment to the Lord. Praise God! We have a small group now studying the School of Christ. This has been a massive move going into Rikers Island, but I believe it is just the beginning. Two prison chaplains are working with us. Please pray for us that the Holy Ghost would lead us as we work at Rikers Prison. I believe Paul and Silas’ prayers and songs were the key to what happened at that prison in Philippi. What a great Gospel; even the vilest of men were loved on the cross. For the past twenty-seven years I have seen it happen over and over again!
Thank you for your prayers and support for the prisons of this world. When Paul and Silas were cast into prison in Philippi, whipped and chained, they had no idea what God was about to do through them. I had no idea either, but it has been an awesome journey. Again, thank you for your support of the SOC Prison Ministry.
I first visited Crossroads Correctional Facility in Shelby, MT eight years ago, preaching and introducing the School of Christ for the first time. The Chaplain that was serving at that time has since retired, but the new Chaplain, Jamie Stiffler, still has volunteers in once a week to conduct the School.
We held services at 6:30 both nights in the visitation room. Monday night we had about thirty men show up, many of whom were unsaved. It was a difficult atmosphere, but I preached and shared many testimonies of what God has done through the SOC over the years. After the service, an inmate named Terry, came up to me, and begin to tell me a little of his story. He was out of prison on parole for only one month when suddenly his wife got sick and passed away, leaving him and his fifteen-year old son. He shared how soon after that his father also passed away. He said he went out one night under the strain of it all and got drunk and got into a fight. He was rearrested and put right back into prison. As he told me this story, my heart went out to him, but I could see that he was naturally a live wire. The following night there were sixty-two men in the visitation room. Chaplain Stiffler said that this was the largest number of inmates he had ever had in a service. We testified and preached again. During praise and worship there was one guy out of the whole crowd who stood to his feet. He was on the second row, about three rows in front of Terry and his rowdy buddies. During worship, Terry walked up to this guy standing, and told him that he better sit down because he couldn’t see the words. The guy who was standing simply moved to the back of the room so he could stand and Terry went back to his seat. Considering what he had told me the night before I was not surprised at his actions at all. After preaching I gave the invitation to receive salvation. Terry and his whole row of buddies lifted their hands to accept this great Christ! Praise the Lord! We met another guy after service named Simon. He shared how he was a MMA fighter on the outside with a wife and a young son, but was now doing life with parole for murder. Simon is now living for the Lord.
Please keep these inmates and Chaplain Stiffler in your prayers. We pray that God, through His mighty Word, and the teaching of the School of Christ, will keep these men, and enlarge them in the faith day by day.
It has been twenty-one years this month since I teamed up with Pastor Clendennen to take the message of the cross to the prisons of this world. What an awesome privilege it has been, and continues to be! We started in Russia, then South America, Africa, Europe, and now for the last ten years we have plowed the fields in the prisons of the U.S.A. The harvest has been great. Not one prison has been more outstanding than the other. Because the School of Christ has been given such divine favor with Wardens and Chaplains all over, I simply go in where the door has been opened and preach.
This past year we have been in three facilities in Georgia, three in Florida, three is Mississippi, two in Kentucky, four in Tennessee, two in Louisiana, five in Texas, three in Colorado, and two in New Mexico; two days conferences in each one, seeing many come into the Kingdom of God. The SOC is the most effective tool that the prisons have according to Chaplains. I have just visited two prisons in Florence, Arizona that houses illegal immigrants and so man nationalities. For two days, in one particular facility, I preached to over one hundred women and wept as they came to repentance. Many of these women will enroll in our Correspondence Course that is available there.
I just finished a two-day conference in La Palma Correctional and Saguaro Correctional, housing Californians and Hawaiians, where we first visited nine years ago. Each of these facilities has a great testimony. Many of these men are full of the Holy Ghost. They worship so freely. It is truly outstanding! The Lord is high and lifted up in these two facilities. Many have been saved for years. Nearly all the main guys have gone through the SOC. Here’s a great testimony: One man, who I first met four years ago, shared how three days ago he led a Satan worshiper to the Lord. That night the ex-Satan worshiper came to the service. His face was a mask of tattoos. When he took his hat off his head was completely blue with a tattooed snake covering it all over. He came alive in the worship service, and shouted out praises to God when I preached. When it was over he joyfully enrolled in the SOC Correspondence Course. The songwriter said: the vilest offender who truly believes, one moment from Jesus a pardon receives. What a great Gospel! What a wonderful Savior!
In Kentucky this past September I was invited to share my testimony with about seventy Chaplains of CCA (Corrections Corporation of America). It was a great time and many of these Chaplains are friends of the SOC. One Chaplain told how his hands were tied by bureaucracy, and he told how seventy openly lesbian couples would come and sit in his church meetings, many holding hands. He sobbed as he shared this with us. I stood up and thanked God that we have an answer to all sin, and let me know that is why we are there. I was in that prison for two days in November and saw many set free! Because of your support to the School of Christ every book and every lesson requested has been received.
In 2004 I received a phone call from an inmate who had been through the School of Christ in Alabama but had been transferred to a private prison in Mississippi. He wanted to know if I could bring the SOC to Mississippi as well. I called the Warden, James Cook, who I had known from the Alabama prison system. He asked me to come and meet with him the following week. I called him the day before our scheduled meeting only to be told it would not be possible to run the SOC because the inmates were being transferred back to Alabama. Mr. Cook gave me the information I needed to contact the private organization running the facility, Corrections Corporation of America, and within a week I was in the head office in Nashville.
CCA runs approximately seventy facilities in the United States. I told them of our vision to teach every inmate the ways of God. When I left I gave them the SOC manual and the rest of the material we had, and two weeks later I presented the SOC to every Warden and Assistant, and the Chiefs of Security. They were ecstatic about the effect they believed the SOC would have on the inmates in their facilities. They assessed how we planned to run the schools on a daily basis, and we explained that we would work with the Chaplains and recruit volunteers. Today, eight years later, we have the school in over sixty CCA facilities. Praise the Lord!
In the first part of May I was in four of these facilities in Georgia. I was blessed beyond measure. The schools are now being run by hired facilitators. One of these facilitators in Coffee Correctional Facility is a Baptist minister who is now in his fifth class. He shared with me his desire to be filled with the Holy Ghost. He told me he had never heard anything like this in his life. CCA is paying him to run the class each working day of the week! All over the country CCA is paying facilitators to run the School of Christ. It’s amazing to be a small part of what God is doing in the prisons of America. Radical changes are being made every day. The presence of God was mighty in every prison last week. Hundreds gave their lives to the Lord. The worship in each place was awesome. In one prison two English men came and introduced themselves to me. I don’t know why they were there, but they were in the right place at the right time. They came all the way from England to get saved in an American prison.
In the next few months I will be in several prisons across the nation: four in Tennessee, two in Kentucky, six in Arizona, seven in Texas, three in Colorado, two in New Mexico, three in Oklahoma, and five in Florida.