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Northern New Jersey Prison Ministry Teams Sweep Allegheny East Awards
Story by Taashi Rowe
Edith Tucker, Allegheny East Conference Prison Ministries Federation president, presents Thomas Henderson with the Christian Endurance Award. Morris Wilder, vice president of the organization and an award recipient, looks on.
Thomas Henderson received a scholarship to Rutgers University in New Jersey for electrical engineering but only went to class for about 18 months because he began to focus on gang activities. His mother was a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, but Henderson first met Jesus while he was incarcerated. He returned to church in 1988 and eventually became drug free. Members of the Berean church in Newark prayed for Henderson. Bertha Freeman in Newark in particular said she recognized something good in him and continued to pray for him and invite him to church. At the recent Allegheny East Conference (AEC) Prison Ministries Federation Banquet held in Edison, N.J., Henderson received the Christian Endurance award in recognition of his exceptional growth.
Henderson’s award was one of five presented at the 31st anniversary of this banquet, which drew 166 attendees. The federation also recognized Morris Wilder, a member of the Mount Olivet church in Neptune, N.J., and Gloria Davis of the Hillcrest church in Port Murray, N.J., for serving in Prison Ministries for 30 years or more.
Carl Bannister, a chaplain at the Hackettstown Adventist Hospital, received the Good Neighbor Award for sharing the gospel with residents at the Edna Mahan Adult Correctional Facility in Clinton, N.J.
The Chaplain of the Year Award went to Larry Akins, who is chaplain at the East Jersey State Prison. Akins is not a Seventh-day Adventist; however, he was recognized for instituting GED classes, starting discipleship groups, starting a music ministry and, most recently, for hosting a two-day gospel fest at the prison.
The federation also named Orlando Moncrieffe Pastor of the Year for his work at the Northern State Prison in Newark, N.J. Moncrieffe, who pastors the First church of Teaneck in New Jersey, preaches at worship services, officiates at baptisms and communions and even organized a new men’s choir from his church to sing at the prison. In the past year alone, he also baptized 50 people.
Harvey George received the Community Humanitarian Award for founding Friends of Lifers. He founded the organization while he was serving a lifetime sentence at the East jersey State Prison in Rahway. He participated in and also wrote the scripts for the “Scared Straight” programs, presented to young persons and high school students at the prison. Coming out of prison with on early release, George funded projects out of his own pocket to give work to mostly young ex-offenders. The proceeds from each project funded more and more projects. Not only does Friends of the Lifers help families of inmates serving lifetime sentences in Jersey City, they also help ex-offenders of all ages.
“We cannot afford to give everyone awards for things they do,” said Edith Tucker, AEC’s Prison Ministries Federation president. “And we know the awards will pass away, but this is just the federation’s feeble attempt to thank the faithful workers that God gives us to go into prisons to help the prisoners. Through them we make sure that nobody can ever say they didn’t have an invitation to join Jesus at the banquet.”
This story was updated on January 26, 2012.