Newsdesk this month is devoted to the five-year retrospectives from the specialized ministries through which Adventist members in the Pacific Union are nurturing discipleship and spiritual growth and reaching out to the communities of the Pacific Southwest.
Prison Ministry in the Pacific Union Conference is focused on sharing the hope found in Jesus and offering fellowship for the incarcerated.
Leading the ministry is Byron West, who has many years of experience in prison ministry. Between 1984 and 2013, West volunteered at Folsom State Prison, near Sacramento.
In 1987, worship services began with four prisoners and one volunteer, increasing to 70 prisoners and four Adventist volunteers by 2013. In 2019, West was elected the vice president for growth and development of the Alliance of Prison Ministry Organizations and Affiliates (APMOA), an International Adventist organization whose mission it is to “equip and encourage Adventist prison and jail ministry volunteers throughout the world.”
Through the work of dedicated volunteers, Prison Ministry shares the gospel with the incarcerated in several ways, including literature distribution, Bible study, conducting Sabbath morning worship services in the prison chapel, and other programs.
Pacific Union Conference Prison Ministry also supports local conferences and churches in their own prison ministry efforts by providing training, materials, consultation, and other resources they can use as they reach out to the incarcerated in their respective communities.
Since March of 2020, due to COVID-19, volunteers have not been allowed inside most California State prisons, but that hasn’t stopped the work of ministry. Through phone calls and other digital means, West and other volunteers have stayed in contact with former inmates, some of whom joined the Adventist church while they were incarcerated.