May 9, 2014

A California Hispanic Ministry Reaches Behind Bars


Prison ministry, a frequently
overlooked outreach, is often a blessing not only for prison inmates, but also
for those who volunteer. For some inmates, prison becomes a place where their
hearts are opened to God for the first time, and for many church members, the
experience of sharing their faith is eye-opening.

Members of the Inland Spanish
church in Colton, California, have been active participants in prison ministry
for several years. David Lemos, the prison ministries coordinator for the
church at the California Rehabilitation Center (a men’s prison in Norco),
speaks enthusiastically about his involvement. Working alongside David Machado
for 28 years, Lemos and his fellow volunteers say God has been working in the
lives of the inmates.

“[They] enjoy singing and are very
engaged in Bible discussion,” said Lemos. “There are inmates who have gone
through entire Bible study courses and who are ready for baptism, and many
others who are learning about Jesus for the first time.”

Lemos and a group of nine volunteers
hold two services every Sabbath at 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Each service begins
with prayer, thanksgiving, testimonies, and hymns. The attending inmates, who
vary in number from five to 25, participate in the Sabbath school lesson and
sermon. Occasionally, the group will watch a sermon by Doug Batchelor or
Kenneth Cox on DVD. Seminars are also given to help diversify subject matter
and keep interest high. For example, David Lopez and Edelweiss Ramal,
professors at Loma Linda University, recently volunteered to give lectures on
health issues.

Thanks to the efforts of the
rehabilitation center’s new chaplain, Donald Warrick, as well as the new
community resource manager, the volunteer group now has access to the chapel
for weekly services, baptisms, and communion. Volunteers also have private
lockers in which to store the materials needed for Sabbath services. These
items, as well as funds needed to run the prison ministry, are donated by
church members who want the ministry to grow and touch the lives of those
behind bars.

“They know how important it is to
live a better life and become good citizens in the community,” said Lemos of
those who attend the weekly services. “It’s a blessing when these men invite
other inmates.”

There was one inmate in particular
who stood out to volunteers. After having been incarcerated for five years, he
began attending the services. “He had friends who were Adventists and had seen
the love and kindness that they produced,” explained Lemos. “He would always
bring a group of five inmates or more to our services and was always willing to
help those that didn’t have family.” Today, he is a free man, and is now an
active part of the volunteer prison ministries group.

Although the ministry at the California Rehabilitation Center
has been successful, it always needs more volunteers. For more information,
contact David Lemos or Pastor Hector Ramal at 909-824-1585.