For 40 years, Prison Fellowship® has been going into correctional facilities, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with those behind bars, and offering the hope of true transformation. Through the use of Bible-based programing, and with the help of thousands of committed volunteers, lives are being changed, hope is being restored, and darkness is being replaced with the promise of a future.
As 2016 draws to a close, we look back on the stories that meant the most to you and to us. Thank you for serving with us as we "remember those in prison."
The following article was originally posted July 13, 2016.
70 BAPTIZED IN MISSOURI PRISON
by Zoe Erler
A few months ago, John Alarid received a surprising email. It was from the girlfriend of a prisoner at Ozark Correctional Center (Missouri) asking if Alarid would be willing to come to the prison to baptize 10 men.
A former Mexican gang member and prisoner himself, Alarid, now the pastor of CityReach Church in Springfield, had been leading Sunday services at the prison for several years and gladly agreed.
But when he showed up at the facility on May 8th, he discovered that not 10 men wanted to be baptized but 37! On top of that, many of those who came to be baptized brought their friends, and 30 of them raised their hands to receive Christ during an altar call.
"The atmosphere was electrified with the presence of God," Alarid says.
The next month, Alarid was asked to come back to Ozark again. Apparently, the chapel clerk and some of those who had been baptized had been leading classes on baptism, and many of those who had received Christ at the baptism wanted to be baptized too. This time, 34 guys showed up to be baptized and 49 more raised their hands to surrender to Christ.
Alarid explains that some of those who have become Christians were major "players" on the streets and have used their influence to draw others to Christ.
"I think [God] is raising up an army out of prison," says Ethan Barnett, one of those who was baptized in May.
Barnett, who came to Christ seven months ago while incarcerated, says he decided to be baptized because it was a public declaration of faith.
"I wanted to be an example and show what God was doing,' he explains. "I wanted to say, 'This is who I am and this is what I stand for.'"
Barnett was released from prison in June and has since been attending CityReach, playing guitar in the worship band.