By Jennifer Johnson
God Behind Bars is a nonprofit organization that holds video campuses inside several women’s prisons. Today, the ministry is pursuing a multifaceted strategy to not only introduce inmates to Christ, but to walk with them as Christ followers.
To that end, God Behind Bars partners with Central Christian Church (Henderson, NV) and several others church to launch ministries inside prisons.
GBB still holds video services, and the first step is for a prisoner to attend. Because 90 percent of inmates have struggled with addiction at some point, step two is participating in a small group or Celebrate Recovery.
“After a prisoner has been involved in these experiences, we’ll invite her to participate in a one-year program that teaches budgeting, career and interview techniques, and other life skills,” says God Behind Bars founder Jake Bodine. “We also encourage the women to connect with their families and worship together using ChurchInside.com. This site allows family members to log in and watch the same service that’s being shared in the prison, at the same time.”
The fourth step is a comprehensive aftercare strategy that begins with meeting prisoners at the gate when they’re released, connecting them to one of GBB’s houses or another sober living environment, and helping them get jobs.
“We discovered one of their biggest issues is finding employment, and when they can’t find a job it’s often tempting to go back to their old life,” Bodine says. “They served their time, changed their lives, and accepted Christ, but when they go back to the community no one wants to give them an opportunity to show they’ve changed.”
To combat this problem, Bodine and his team created Repurposed Ministries, a variety of employment opportunities for the recently released prisoners. The Castaways resale store, a shop that “keeps the good, changes the bad, and throws out the ugly” of the traditional thrift store model, launched in Henderson in March. Women from the God Behind Bars program work as sales people, forklift operators, and even truck drivers.
“Working at Castaways gives the women an opportunity to succeed while building their résumés,” says Bodine. “The store is beautiful and meets a need in the community.”
He hopes to launch at least three more employment opportunities in 2014, and the ministry also started a “Set Them Free” campaign; a donation of $27 a month for 27 months pays for an inmate to go through the entire program.
“The wardens say God Behind Bars is changing the culture at their prisons,” Bodine says. “But most people don’t realize nine out of ten prisoners are going to be released into society again, so what happens in prison eventually affects our community. We’re not just helping a prisoner who’s set free from jail, but building a long-term relationship that sets her free in Christ.”