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Allegheny East and Potomac Host Prison Ministries Convocation
By LaVerne Henderson
“In my experience there are two really committed groups in the local church—Children’s Ministries and Prison Ministries,” announced Norman Miles, pastor of Allegheny East’s Trinity Temple in Newark, N.J. Miles was the Sabbath speaker during the recent Prison Ministries Convocation held at the Columbia Union Conference headquarters.
Sponsored by the Allegheny East and Potomac conferences, and the Alliance of Prison Ministry Organizations and Affiliates (APMOA), nearly 75 attendees gathered for the one-day event.
Edith Tucker, Allegheny East Prison Ministry federation president, stressed that there are also numerous ways for members to witness outside of prison walls. “We have to meet the needs of the prisoner’s spouse and children and help facilitate the former inmate’s re-entry into the community once they’re released,” says Tucker, who has been involved for 38 years. “And, most importantly, the local church needs to be welcoming and sensitive to the needs of these individuals when they seek to become part of God’s family.”
Hector Cruz, president of Potomac’s Prison Ministry Organization, has relatives who are incarcerated and believes God has called him to be involved in this ministry. “Our goal is to get the whole church involved,” he stated. “We even have the Pathfinders writing cards and letters to young people in the juvenile system.”
Daniel McManus, APMOA vice president for growth and development, said these types of events are crucial for effective ministry and networking. APMOA is a self-supporting national Adventist organization.
Potomac young adult member Reshma Chelliah of the Seabrook (Md.) church has been ministering at a women’s halfway house in Washington, D.C., for four years. “It’s more of a blessing to me; I feel closer to God after hearing their testimonies,” she says.
Margaret Billig, coordinator of the Allentown (Pa.) church’s Prison Ministries group, was also on hand. She and members of the Allentown, Bethlehem, and Walnutport churches have been visiting inmates of the Lehigh County Prison for several years.
Minnie McNeil, Columbia Union Adventist Community Services (ACS) coordinator, said that collaboration—between Women’s and Children’s ministries, and ACS—is the key to making Prison Ministries successful. McNeil is also the ACS and Women’s, Prison, and Inner Cities ministries director for Allegheny East.
Following Sabbath School, the worship service, and a fellowship lunch, participants heard testimonies and progress reports from representatives of the Chesapeake and Allegheny West conferences and the National Women’s Prison Project. They parted with renewed zeal to model Christ’s behavior of ministry.