The Lord is opening doors for Reformed ministry to women inmates. Rev. Nathan Brummel, who heads up Divine Hope Reformed Bible Seminary, and his wife, Paula, presented conferences on the “Virtuous Woman” at women’s facilities in Decatur, IL, on January 11-12, and in Rockville, IN, on February 9, 2013.
The Rockville Correctional Center is the largest women’s prison in Indiana with 1300 inmates in a medium security facility. The Decatur Correctional Center is also a medium security prison that incarcerates 800 women.
The “Virtuous Woman” conference is based on Proverbs 31. At the Decatur facility, 80 women (10% of the population) were permitted to attend the conference. Rev. Brummel spoke Friday evening on “A Portrait of a Virtuous Woman” (verses 10 & 30), followed by Paula speaking on “The Teaching of a Virtuous Mother” (verses 1-9). On Saturday morning, Paula spoke about “The Virtuous Wife” (verses 11-12, 23), and Rev. Brummel addressed the “The Virtuous Mother” (verses 21-22, 25, 27). On Saturday afternoon, Paula described “The Work Ethic of the Virtuous Woman” (verses 13-19, 24-25), and Rev. Brummel spoke on “The Wide-Open Hand of the Virtuous Woman” (verse 20). On the following Sunday morning, Rev. Brummel preached from Proverbs 31:26 on “The Silvery Tongue of the Virtuous Woman.”
One young woman recognized for the first time that her mother had been a virtuous woman who had been trying to teach her God’s ways, but she had been blind to spiritual things. As she wept and cried that “it was all too late,” Paula comforted her and assured her that her virtuous mother would rejoice to learn about her changed perspective.
As the women sang Psalms for the first time, many found meaning in singing God’s Word, particularly “I will walk at liberty, because Thy truth I seek” from Psalm 119. While some women who attended are on waiting lists for Bible studies, others snickered at challenging Scripture texts, and a few evidenced hard hearts toward all the teaching.
According to Rev. Brummel, the women in the Decatur facility “are like the women you meet at the grocery store or at church. Some of the ladies did not know their Bibles. Other women had heavily used Bibles and found such joy in the Word of God. They hungered and thirsted after righteousness.”
“There is something bittersweet about prison ministry,” writes Rev. Brummel. “On the one hand, Paula and I had such a blessed and joyful time encouraging the women in prison. On the other, it was sad to see the suffering of confessing Christian women behind bars.”
He describes the excitement of one woman scheduled the next day for the first phone call with her children in a year. The phone call had been ordered by a judge, but her husband objected to the ruling and the phone call was not permitted. Although she cried all that afternoon, God encouraged her through a surprise visit from other family members she had not seen for a year.
Women from Immanuel URC had donated care packages containing soap, lotion, chocolate, shampoo, and pens for conference attendees.
The Brummels are exploring options for conducting regular conferences with Reformed women speakers.
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on pages 17 & 19 of the February 27, 2013 issue of Christian Renewal.