2016 NW Prison Ministry Retreat
This year’s Northwest Prison Ministry Retreat brought ministry teams to Gladstone, Ore., during the first weekend of April. Nearly 100 volunteers from churches around the Northwest welcomed this opportunity for fellowship and inspiration.
Wintley Phipps, renowned speaker and musical artist, brought keynote moments, including plenary sessions on Friday evening, Sabbath morning worship and a well-received concert that evening. Phipps is integrally involved with prison ministry as CEO of the U.S. Dream Academy, which provides mentoring and support for children of the incarcerated.
Additional workshops throughout the weekend provided ongoing encouragement and education with topics such as substance abuse, mental health issues, discipleship, transitional housing and volunteer recruitment.
Byron Dulan, Washington Conference outreach ministries director, noted that some key volunteer teams were unable to attend for one important reason — they were too busy keeping their weekly appointments at local prisons. Their faithfulness masks a growing challenge, echoed by Chuck Burkeen, Oregon Conference member ministries director. He says recruiting and mentoring additional volunteers to share the weekly responsibilities is vital to provide relief for faithful but small teams who often miss fellowship with their home churches in order to meet regularly with inmates.
Alphonso McCarthy, North Pacific Union Conference vice president for regional ministries, notes another important area for growth in the prison ministry arena. Many volunteer teams are aging. They need new, younger volunteers to take up the mantle of leadership.
Members throughout the Northwest can help with the challenges and opportunities of prison ministry. They can pray for those who serve inmates regularly. They can give tangible encouragement to volunteer teams who are often elsewhere on Sabbath mornings. And they can ponder the possibility that God is calling them to step in as new volunteers for this important ministry.