Donated Bibles help inmates mark time
MERIDIAN, Miss. (BP)--Life is full of countdowns: to a rocket launch, summer break, a due date. For inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center in Mississippi, there is one countdown -– a not-so-common one for most people -– that dominates their consciousness.
"These guys are always looking for ways to count the days till they get out," said Dennis Marks, chaplain at the detention center. "They mark off days on the calendar, keep track on paper, whatever it takes to note the time passing."
Marks was thrilled when the LifeWay Christian Store in Meridian, Miss., began inviting customers to make donations to purchase "Everyday with Jesus" Bibles for the jail's ministry team.
The Everyday with Jesus Bible includes a reading plan with daily passages from the New Testament, Psalms, Proverbs and the rest of the Old Testament in addition to devotional thoughts. Sticking to the plan, readers experience the entire Bible in one year.
"Count your time by reading the Bible and doing your Scripture points every day," Marks tells the inmates.
Chris Thomas, manager of the LifeWay Christian Store, explained that the store facilitates local service projects several times throughout the year, such as the Bible donation or gifts of plush toys to a nearby children's hospital.
"Employees have confidence in knowing the work they do is making an impact on the Kingdom of God," Thomas said. "I see it as an opportunity for our store to go above and beyond what we were previously doing and really impact the community."
Thomas and his assistant manager Tammy Reeves delivered 155 Bibles to the detention center in late February.
"It's a pleasure to get the Bible," said Randall Sanders, an inmate who received a Bible the day they were delivered. "I'm going to use it all the time. God is so good."
Sanders said many of his fellow inmates can't afford to purchase a Bible, so he appreciates the support shown by LifeWay and the community for the inmates and the ministry at the detention center.
Marks noted it is significant to the inmates that members of the local community chose to provide the Bibles rather than a ministry or business simply making the donation. "The way it was done was a neat way of doing it," he said. "We depend on the network of God's people to do our ministry, and LifeWay plugged into that. It's a tremendous testimony."
The detention center generally houses about 250 inmates, and Marks wants to be able to provide a Bible for every inmate who requests one.
A Bible, he said, is one of the "tools [inmates] need to make a change."
"A transformed heart is the only thing that's going to break the cycle of crime," the chaplain said. "I'm looking forward to the time when I can go in there and say, 'LifeWay and the community gave this to you.'
"The Word of God really does change people's lives."
Brooklyn Noel is a writer and editor for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Kent Harville is LifeWay's corporate visuals specialist.