“What took you so long? I’ve been waiting for the Seventh-day Adventist group for six years!” exclaimed a young inmate at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women.
In the early 80s, the commonwealth of Virginia searched for a location to build a new prison. They looked at the property which is now Hartland Institute, but instead settled for a location just 11 miles from Hartland, in Mitchells, Virginia. Hartland has tried for 13 years to establish a prison ministry at Coffeewood Correctional Center. In 2008, the Lord opened the doors for us to minister to a group of Messianic Jews and Seventh-day Adventists.
Two and one-half years later we had our first baptisms at the prison. We were expecting four candidates, but when we started, only three were present. One of the prisoners, Gregory, has been suffering from cancer, and told a fellow baptismal candidate, Joe, that he would not be able to make it to the baptism. As I started to explain the procedure, Gregory walked through the door! After we all gave him a big hug, he took his place beside the other three and passed the vows.
Walking from the classroom where we meet to the baptismal location, the gymnasium, the 35 inmates in our class, along with five Hartland volunteers, sang “Amazing Grace.” As we passed one of the guards, I noticed tears welling from her eyes. Gregory, Joe, Dave, and Greg publicly surrendered their lives that night to the Lord as the other 31 non-Adventist inmates looked on. Since the baptisms, two men who have been attending our services from the beginning expressed their desire to be baptized as well.
The Lord has richly blessed the prison ministry at Coffeewood, and now we are taking it to another level—a pen pal ministry for those who attend our services. Please continue to pray for this budding ministry.
Submitted by Brian Beavers, Former College Outreach Coordinator