The open door for ministering to women prisoners in Rockville, IN, was recently thrown wider. Divine Hope Reformed Bible Seminary has the opportunity to begin a study center within the prison this summer, and organizers are planning a unique conference and fellowship experience with a retreat tone.
Two courses on the Heidelberg Catechism will be taught during a six-week session from June 28-August 8, 2015. Lectures are scheduled for Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Seminary personnel Rev. Nathan Brummel, Rev. Ken Anema, and John Surowiec will serve as primary instructors with the assistance of Reformed ministers as well as Reformed women speakers. During this six-week period, Revs. Brummel and Anema also plan to preach Heidelberg Catechism sermons at all Sunday morning general Christian services held in the prison. Additionally, approval has been granted for the visitors to bring refreshments into the facility for times of fellowship each class day.
“This is a tremendous opportunity,” Rev. Nathan Brummel says. “We want these two classes also to function as an extended women’s retreat.”
Organizers hope a retreat emphasis will benefit inmates and volunteers alike as both deepen their understanding of the Reformed faith, while developing relationships with each other. Volunteers can assist in many ways: baking cookies or providing other refreshments, leading or participating in singing, speaking or praying with the women, facilitating small discussion groups or teaching larger sessions. Adding to the retreat feel are the accommodations the Seminary plans to provide for women volunteers at Turkey Run State Park.
Visiting a prison may be outside your comfort zone or seem intimidating, but volunteers frequently testify to their fears being superseded by surprising blessing and joy.
Donna Hamstra, Immanuel URC in DeMotte, IN, has visited the prison twice. “Spending time with the women at Rockville Prison and seeing them delight in the Word of God was a wonderful experience! God is using these times of study to encourage young and mature believers in their faith walk. I enjoy learning alongside of them, and I encourage my Christian sisters to go, even for a day, to serve and bless those who desire to know more about Jesus.”
The Seminary recognizes the long-term value of fostering fellowship between Christian sisters on the inside and those on the outside of prison. The hope is to nurture the kind of community necessary for an ex-offender to live successfully for the Lord after her release.
“We hope that Reformed ladies develop relationships with Christian offenders so that women can be incorporated into Reformed churches,” Rev. Brummel says. “We want to get Reformed ladies involved so that they can show Christian love and experience rich fellowship with the inmates. We want to bridge the gulf between women in prison and Christian ladies on the outside. Do not think that you will only come to serve—you will also be blessed.”
The Divine Hope study center program offers 15 courses in its Christian Foundations curriculum. The first class of the Heidelberg Catechism course, written by Rev. Paul Ipema, focuses on guilt and grace by studying the Apostles’ Creed. The second class focuses on gratitude through study of the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer.
The above article by Glenda Mathes appeared on page 12 of the March 18, 2015, issue of Christian Renewal.