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Proclaiming release to the captivescomment (0)

July 22, 2004

By Johnie Sentell

A primary theme of the Bible is that God provides freedom from the slavery of sin.

The Gospel of Luke gives the first recorded words of Jesus’ public ministry, as He read aloud from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He appointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives.”

In our home we have two items directly related to the terrible condition of being a captive. One is a Korean bill of sale more than 150 years old transferring ownership of a 34-year-old female slave and her two sons, ages 7 and 2. We bought the second item several years ago in Guatemala — a heavy, ancient anklet that was permanently placed on the leg of a slave.

Most members of Alabama Baptist churches cannot imagine what it would be like to be a captive, unable to move around at will. But some actually go into prison every week to help people there find true release through Jesus. A devotional for next week in Open Windows alludes to such a ministry.

The article was written by Emily Filipi, Sunday School director for Thelma Baptist Church, north of Wetumpka, and coordinator of prison ministry for Elmore Asso-ciation.

She is a busy lady, also leading conferences in Discipleship Train-ing, new church starts, black church relations and weekday early education, among other projects.

In her article, Emily tells about Charlene, who went to prison for murdering an abusive father. Char-lene’s life changed dramatically after she accepted Jesus as her Savior. Following her release from prison, she chose to become a speaker on behalf of prison ministry. Once suffering from very low self-esteem, Charlene is now a gracious person who gladly gives her testimony even before hundreds of people. To schedule her to speak, contact Emily at 334-567-2380.

One Alabama church with a long track record in prison ministry is First Baptist Church, Montgomery, where Jane Ferguson has served as minister of community ministries for 16 years. She noted that the prison ministry was already going before she came on staff. About 20 church members minister at three youth facilities and three adult facilities. The closest ministry point is the county jail, located across the street from the church.

Montgomery First also ministers to people following their release.

“When people are released, they almost always come to the Caring Center,” Jane said. “We help them with financial assistance, clothing, picture IDs and other things they often don’t have. And we help them find housing.
“Believe it or not, we have a fairly good number who join our church. We have several halfway houses nearby,” she noted.

But the church is planning to do even more to help.

“One of our next big ventures will be transitional housing for -former inmates,” Jane said. Ken Brothers, long involved in the prison ministry, “feels a real calling to develop that,” she noted. The church already has a task force looking into the development.

When we show true concern for needy individuals, it reflects honor to Jesus, who offers all people true release from the captivity of sin.

This Sunday, July 25, churches across the state will emphasize the importance of their state Baptist paper as they observe “Read The Ala-bama Baptist Day.” Good, -reliable information is essential for Baptists. Each week the paper quotes words of Jesus from John 8: “If ye continue in my word, then ... ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
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