Kris Weiskittel is taking seriously the words of Christ in Matthew 25:35. On Sunday nights, you’ll find Kris sacrificing his time to go and visit those in prison. This is a thankless ministry that exists under the radar of most of us. As a regular reader of this blog, Kris was kind enough to allow me to interview him regarding what it’s like to go into the prisons and deliver hope and the love of Jesus to those incarcerated there.
TS: What does a night serving at the prison look like?
KW: The Jail Ministry is essentially “church” for the inmates. So when we go there we conduct a “church service” complete with prayer requests and a bible lesson. On some occasions we’ll even play music and/or sing songs. It’s a lot like normal church except there is no children’s nursery and we don’t pass around a donation plate. As the inmates arrive we shake their hands and welcome them to the service. In most cases we recognize the inmates from previous visits, but given the high turnover in county jails, we always see new faces too.
As a member of the Gideons we hand out small Gideon pocket testaments (New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs) to any inmate who wants one – for free. Lately we have decided to also pass out full-length bibles (NT and OT) – which are not provided by the Gideons – for free; rather it’s something we’re doing on our own because inmates regularly ask for full-length bibles
Before and after the church service we spend time talking with the inmates and attempting to build relationships with them. Although there is high turnover in a county jail, we do see some of the guys several times and the relationships we build with them tend to bear fruit over time.
TS: How has being involved impacted your life?
KW: I can think of three key ways it’s impacted my life. First, it’s reminded me how fortunate I am to have my freedom and how I take for granted the “luxuries” of a private shower and good food. Every single time we leave the jail and walk out to the parking lot, I immediately think of all the inmates and how they can’t go home. I think of the mistakes I’ve made in my life and how fortunate I am that I didn’t make a mistake that caused me to be incarcerated. Sleeping in your own bed is a blessing.
Second, I’m also reminded how there are so many people who are hurting in this world, people who need hope and encouragement, yet they are out-of-sight and easily forgotten – much like the homeless, the poor, the lonely, the orphans and widows. We tend to forget about those in jail/prison and think they deserve to be there (in most cases they do) and we see little reason to extend them our love and compassion. But if our God is anything, He is the God of restoration. Jesus came to save these men and women serving time in jails and prisons; they need our love and the love of Jesus Christ as much as anyone. When you stop and think about the fact that God uses the simple to confound the wise, the weak to defeat to the strong… how he used the apostle Paul despite his persecution of Christians before his transformation – well, it’s clear to me that God will use many of these inmates to do great things someday. They’re His children. They’re our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Finally, God has used jail ministry to help me grow spiritually and to hold me accountable in my walk with Him. For instance, there have been times where I’m struggling in my personal life and then I’ll attend a jail church service and my heart is touched by the very message we’re giving to the inmates. At other times the Lord has used it to convict me that I’m living the life of a “fraud” – i.e. being involved in jail ministry yet not centering my life around Jesus on a day to day basis. He convicts me to stay centered on Him and to truly “walk the talk” as He allows me to serve Him in jail ministry.
TS: How would you suggest people get involved in ministries like this?
KW: If someone is interested in jail/prison ministry, the easiest thing to do is to contact the facility (jail, prison, etc.) and find out what ministry opportunities they have. In most cases there will be a Jail/Prison Chaplain who is in charge and that person would be a good resource to discuss your interest. There are many organizations who are involved in jail ministry and locally you can contact a group called “Unchained Ministries” who have prison ministries in several Indiana cities.
TS: Any words of encouragement you’d like to share with the readers?
KW: Whether it’s jail ministry, being a greeter at church, volunteering at a nursing home, leading a bible study, serving on a committee at church or writing a blog about faith-oriented topics…it’s an honor to serve God in any way shape or form. I encourage everyone to consider the unique ways you can serve Him and use your talents to serve others.