Today’s blog continues the conversation of clergywomen involved in Prison Ministry. Our featured pastor for this segment is The Reverend Mylion Waite, Director of the Antioch Baptist Church Prison Ministry in Cleveland, Ohio and Pastor of the Open Door Fellowship Worship Hour, a ministry to the incarcerated and their families. With a heart for those families devastated by a loss of loved ones to the prison industry, Rev. Waite serves with great dedication and compassion. Below she shares her experience with this particular ministry and gives guidance to those desiring to get involved. As the Lord raised the question in the Book of Isaiah, “Who will go for us (Isaiah 6:8)?” Rev Waite’s ministry challenges us to consider our part in “the going.”
Shepastor Interview with
The Reverend Mylion Waite
Director of Antioch Baptist Church Prison Ministry,
Pastor of the Open Door Fellowship Worship Hour
Tell us how you became involved in prison ministry and in what capacities have you served regarding this ministry.
I became involved after visiting the Northeast Pre-release Center with one of my church members who had a burning passion to minister to incarcerated women. Following the visit, I founded the Open Door Fellowship Worship Hour --a ministry to individuals incarcerated, those returning home and their families. Open Door offers two worship services monthly for the people previously incarcerated. This gathering of 40 to fifty allows families to share their trials, tribulations, joys and successes while encouraging them to stay strong in the faith.
Additionally, the ministry has a pen-pal and birthday card ministry to those incarcerated, as well as trained instructors for Crossroads Bible Correspondence courses. We have developed a lending library at the Oriana Halfway house. We have a County jail ministry, and a ministry to boys and girls in the juvenile detention center. We also have a biweekly visitation ministry to Grafton, Lorain Correctional Institutions where our members present the Iron Sharpens Irons workshop to help men with life skills and adjustment with reentry issues. The program also offers mentoring and after prison support with bus passes, food and clothing--these represent a modicum of what the Antioch Prison ministry offers to individuals and their families. I serve as the director of the prison ministry and pastor of Open Door.
Explain the concept of “pipeline to prison” in America
“Pipeline to Prison” is a phrase that captures the circumstances that children are born into that too often predict their likeliness of going to prison. These trajectories include, race, poverty, single parent homes, school dropout, lack of health care, including mental health. These forces combine to make it difficult for a youngster to transition successfully into adulthood.
How does this impact individuals, families and communities?
There are 2.7 million American Children with a parent behind bars. One in 9 AA American Children, one in 28 Hispanic Children and one in 57 White Children have incarcerated parents (Collateral Cost). This is devastating to family life and to society. Imprisonment makes it tough to maintain family ties or to support a family after release. Children with fathers in prison are significantly more likely than other children, to go to prison themselves. One in three African American boys can expect to go to prison themselves. In addition, large numbers of ex-offenders in a community destabilizes the community as people move in and out of prison, causing neighborhoods to loose incomes, role models for children and husbands for mothers.
How can clergy help?
Clergy can help by first acknowledging the problem and its impact on family life. Clergy can encourage prison ministries in their churches, urging people to follow Christ’s command to remember those in prison, as though they themselves are locked away.
How can churches help?
Churches can partner with community groups to help find jobs for the person returning to society, be a mentor, hire someone, welcome the ex-offender to the full life of the congregation, invite an ex-offender to speak at your church, offer support to children whose parent may be away, i.e. Angel Tree, etc.
What guidance would you give to individuals desiring to get involved in prison ministry?
Individuals desiring to help should get training from a reputable prison ministry program and learn the do's and don'ts of prison ministry. Be guided by the Holy Spirit as to why they should be involved. This is a rich mission field that requires first the heart of Christ and the willingness to get beyond presuppositions and biases towards those with prison records.
Does your congregation have an active prison ministry? Are you involved with ministry to the families of the incarcerated? What experiences have you had that may provide valuable insight into the “doing” of this much needed ministry? We want to hear from you! Post a comment or send me an email at Shepastor1@hotmail.com
Until next Wednesday,
In faith, hope and perseverance,