Hop­ing for a change

Lo­cal prison min­istry of­fers a chance for a bet­ter life to in­mates

The Covington News - - News - RACHEL GOFF News Ed­i­tor

Robert Washington and Ken Horstmann from First Bap­tist Church of Cov­ing­ton, min­is­ter to New­ton County De­ten­tion Cen­ter male in­mates ev­ery Mon­day night for the past three years,

Be­ing en­closed in a room filled with in­mates is some­thing most peo­ple might find un­set­tling, but it’s some­thing Ken Horstmann and Robert Washington have done ev­ery week for the past three years.

The duo, from First Bap­tist Church of Cov­ing­ton, min­is­ter to New­ton County De­ten­tion Cen­ter male in­mates ev­ery Mon­day night through a pro­gram called “Quest for Au­then­tic Man­hood.” Washington said the idea be­hind the min­istry is to help young men in prison be­come bet­ter men and ap­ply God’s word to their lives.

Thus far, the 24-week pro­gram is a suc­cess with al­most ev­ery class filled with pris­on­ers want­ing a change.

“There’s a big back­log of in­mates who want to be part of the class,” said Washington. “The young men I talk to want to change, but they are miss­ing man­hood qual­i­ties.”

The want for change is ap­par­ent Mon­day night, as in­mates en­ter the class with smiles and greet Horstmann and Washington with hand­shakes and hugs as they rush to their seats.

The classes be­gin the same way ev­ery week, with all 16 in­mates, in­clud­ing Horstmann and Washington, gath­ered in a prayer cir­cle hold­ing hands.

“De­liver us from evil and give us strength,” said Washington as he be­gan the group prayer fol­lowed by each in­mate.

Af­ter prayer, Washington de­liv­ers a mes­sage to the men about tri­als and how to act in trou­bling sit­u­a­tions with in­tegrity by lis­ten­ing to God.

“Who’s talk­ing to you when you are do­ing bad things?” he asked the class. One prisoner re­sponded, “I lis­tened to the devil.” “Ex­actly,” said Washington. “When you com­mit crimes you are obey­ing Satan, not God.”

Nods of agree­ment by the men fol­lowed his mes­sage, but it’s not all about teach­ing for Washington and Horstmann.

“I don’t come here to teach,” Horstmann said to the class. “I come here to learn.”

Af­ter the les­son, the class broke into two groups where the men re­viewed the les­son and talked about per­sonal tri­als and tribu­la­tions they were deal­ing with.

One in­mate expressed that he be­lieved it’s not just the devil that causes peo­ple to do bad things.

“Ev­ery­body says the devil made me do it, and I say the devil didn’t make me do it, he was right there with me.”

Washington said he wants the pro­gram to con­tinue to grow and hopes to help pro­vide the in­mates with the right tools to be­come bet­ter men.

New­ton County Sher­iff Ezell Brown said he be­lieves the He-man Prison Min­istry along with the

bevy of other min­istries that serve county in­mates are help­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in their lives.

“I’ve re­ceived let­ters from in­mates that de­scribe the var­i­ous min­istries, and tell me that since go- ing through the pro­grams, they have the tools to make it in so­ci­ety,” he said. “I’m a firm be­liever if we are able to save at least one per­son... that is one per­son re­turn­ing to so­ci­ety and hav­ing an im­pact on oth­ers.”

The main con­tri­bu­tions from pro­grams are that in­mates are learn­ing to ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for the rea­son they are in­car­cer- ated and to ac­cept au­thor­ity, Brown also said.

“I think now they want to take the lead in their lives or sit­u­a­tions that they are in,” he said.

For more in­for­ma­tion about He-man Prison Min­istry con­tact First Bap­tist Church of Cov­ing­ton at (770) 786-9031 or Rev. Robert Washington at (678) 625-0655.

Rachel Goff/ The Cov­ing­ton News

Robert Washington sits with in­mates Mon­day night at the New­ton County De­ten­tion Cen­ter. Washington and Ken Horstmann min­is­ter to pris­on­ers ev­ery week.

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