(Submitted by Marvin Derksen)
The Midland, Ontario assembly began the prison ministry in 2001, when the facility opened its doors. Later, some of the brethren, and one sister from the Waubaushene assembly, joined us as they were able to do so. The super jail, Central North Correctional Centre (CNCC) is located in the town of Penetanguishene, Ontario, close to Midland.
The Men’s Section of the Prison
Our time consists of singing hymns with the men, an opening prayer, and then the preaching of the Word of God. Most of the men enjoy singing the hymns. Many of them know “Jesus loves me” from childhood; some of the other songs are also familiar to them. Usually on the first Lord’s Day of the month we have an hour-long meeting, then another meeting immediately following with another group. We are not allowed to visit the inmates on a one-to-one basis. There is a Christian who is on staff in the “chapel” and he is quite qualified to deal with the inmates individually. On average we get 20 to 30 men at each session. For some time we held a gospel meeting twice a month, but recently they cut it down to once a month. The maximum number of inmates we can have in any one meeting is 32.
The inmates who come to the meeting do appreciate us coming and most of them will personally thank us afterwards.
We believe that God works in their hearts as some are quite moved as they listen to the Word of God. Our emphasis is on man’s ruin, God’s remedy, and man’s responsibility. Although care must be taken in how we phrase things, we always use the Word of God as the authority for what we say. If we make a statement about where they will be after death, as being from ourselves, they can lodge a complaint against us which could result in the termination of our ministry. The same principles apply to the “alternative lifestyle” as it’s sometimes called. We can’t openly preach against homosexuality, but we can read (quote) God’s Word (Rom 1:26-27). We believe God’s Word is “living and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword” and is able to penetrate their consciences and convict them. Telling forth God’s Word is more effective than using our own words.
In the provincial system we are not allowed to make contact with the inmates after their release from prison. Nor are we allowed to ask as to the reason they are there or where they live. If they volunteer the information, then we are obligated to confidentiality. We are not allowed to identify ourselves by our last names. Upon their release we are not informed of their destination. If the prisoners ask us where there is a place where the gospel is preached, depending on where they live, we direct them to an assembly in that location, should there be one.
We are thankful for what God has done in the past 10 years. Some have been blessed with salvation and others have been restored. Others are just there to pass drugs or to talk with their friends.
There are discouraging times as well as times of encouragement. On occasions we are not admitted into the prison due to lockdowns for one reason or another. Or if they are short-staffed, they cancel the service. We thank God’s people and ask that you pray that the Word of God will be blessed. “There go I but for the grace of God.”
The Women’s Section of the Prison
CNCC holds about 1,200 inmates; approximately 50 of these are female. One of our sisters is able to visit once a week with female inmates who have requested a Christian visitor. The chaplain and assistant chaplain pass on to her the requests for a visitor. Our sister has access to visit in a private room with each inmate individually. She works through a process where she finds out if they believe that:
With each inmate she gets varying lengths of time to study the Scriptures. Sometimes it may be only one or two visits; other visits can be over a span of two years. It all depends on their release date and how many lockdowns occur throughout their period of incarceration. We cannot bring about conviction of sin; only God can impress them with their need. However, they can be shown the Scriptures relating to the burden of sins. Please pray for this effort as it requires the moving of the Holy Spirit in each life.