Prison-ministry conference leads to support network

The Synod’s first-ever prison-ministry conference, April 30-May 1 in St. Louis, attracted 107 participants — 37 more than organizers hoped for — “from literally all over the country,” according to Rev. John Fale.

Director of chaplaincy, pastoral counseling, and clinical education with LCMS World Relief/Human Care, Fale said the conference also “offered a wide variety of choices, providing support and ideas for those who are already involved in prison and jail ministry, and the nuts and bolts of getting a prison or jail ministry started through a local congregation.”
 
“Perhaps more importantly,” Fale told Reporter, “it assisted in developing a network and support for those who are involved in prison and jail ministry.”
 
He said that a number of participants “commented how refreshing it was to see so many others in the Synod who are committed to bringing the compassion of Christ and the Gospel to those who are incarcerated, and to their families.”
 
The two-day event, organized and sponsored by Synod World Relief/Human Care and the LCMS Southern Illinois District, and partially funded by the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League, featured a number of plenary presentations from speakers involved in various aspects of prison ministry and offered an array of workshops. 
 
It also included a brainstorming session that “enthusiastically supported having these types of conferences in years to come and forming an online support network in the Synod,” Fale said.
 
“A number of people have commented that the conference provided them a boost to continue in this important service,” he said.
 
One of those is David Streufert of Deer Lodge, Mont., where he leads weekly Bible classes and coordinates a mid-week worship service at Montana State Prison.
 
A member of St. John Lutheran Church in Deer Lodge and on the LCMS Montana District’s Human Care Committee, Streufert told Reporter that the Synod conference “was really a shot in the arm to those who attended.  The workshops, resources, and interactions with others were extremely valuable.”
 
Beth Schnitker of rural Middletown, Mo., sits on the board for Agape House in Vandalia, Mo., which serves the family members of 3,500 inmates at two nearby prisons.  An insurance agent, she is a member of Grace Lutheran Church, Wellsville, Mo.
 
“I was impressed [with] the number of dedicated prison-ministry volunteers, workers, and those with a passion to share the Good News who had traveled far distances to share in this conference,” Schnitker said.  “My eyes were opened to the many diverse needs and opportunities to serve those who are incarcerated.”
 
Fale said that organizers of the conference were “especially pleased” that participants said they intended to encourage others back home to prepare for prison ministry.
 
“That was one of our goals for this conference,” he told Reporter.
 
Fale indicated that “a significant amount of money is available for those who wish to receive training for prison and jail ministry through chaplaincy,” as part of an LWML grant to LCMS World Relief/Human Care.
 
For more information, e-mail Judy Ladage at judy.ladage@lcms.org, or call (800) 248-1930, Ext. 1388.

Posted May 27, 2005

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