INSIDE AND OUT
If you’ve been around Woodmen for a while, you likely think of yourself as “Woodmen.” Realizing that you belong to an amazing collection of believers. Yet, you may not be aware of all Woodmen has going on.
I’d like to introduce a new blog series by the Prison Ministries team. In this first post, I’ll share how our Prison Ministry got off the ground. Watch for future posts unpacking our Woodmen ministry. We'll highlight personal struggles, victories, and future hope for the inmates in Colorado.
For years, a few dedicated Woodmen attenders have been serving the incarcerated. Good News Jail and Prison Ministry’s Dan Matsche, is one of those serving faithfully at many prisons. And so, eight years ago, Woodmen set out on a statewide journey to impact Colorado prisons. When asked to unite all our efforts under the umbrella of Woodmen Prison Ministries, I accepted.
Over time, we’ve grown to see fruitful multiplication among our teams. Currently, our Inside Teams hold weekly Bible studies and services. They focus on building long-term relationships with inmates to cultivate lasting discipleship.
The work of the Inside Teams also laid the groundwork for us to launch Woodmen’s fourth campus, Ark Valley. It's inside the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in Ordway, Colorado. We’ll share more about that exciting story in a future blog.
We also offer Aftercare, picking-up where our Inside Teams have left off. Our goal is to equip those released with tools to be successful in life, at work, and to grow spiritually. Aftercare requires a network of churches, community organizations, and state agencies to meet the needs of the hundreds of inmates.
Whether inside or out of prison, our ministry is not without its challenges. Although we’ve made progress, we sense it’s lacking a more meaningful impact. The sense of belonging that most folks feel at Woodmen, is missing among offenders re-entering into mainstream society.
Regardless of how much we desire to love well and change lives through Christ, there are things built into some people that can make our ministry difficult. Prisons, by design, keep society safe while providing a venue for criminals to serve out their term of punishment. That separation from society breeds loneliness. It harbors distrust. That lack of connection results in a splintered sense of belonging.
As harsh as a loss of belonging is for the offender, we acknowledge that many have done terrible things. They belong where they are. But the reality is -- our communities will absorb 85% of Colorado’s offender population in three to five years.
We’d love to see people transformed by Jesus, so when they become our neighbors, they’ll no longer seek to harm others. We have to embrace the tension that brings.
Would you pray God enables us to accomplish His purposes through our ministry?
And stay tuned for more in-depth stories of what God is up to through Woodmen’s Prison Ministry. We’re grateful to have a place of belonging in our Woodmen family and that you’re willing to take this journey with us!
If you’d like to know more or get involved with Woodmen’s Prison Ministry, email me.
Howie Close is a former inmate of the Colorado Department of Corrections. He is now Pastor of Ark Valley, Woodmen's Campus inside Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility in Ordway, Colorado