DAYTONA BEACH (FBW)—About 100 men at Tomoka Correctional Institution were treated to a Dec. 6 Christmas banquet by prison ministry volunteers of Fruit Cove Baptist Church, a culmination of a year-round ministry by the Jacksonville church to the Daytona Beach inmates.
And, Jesus is there with the prisoners, just as He promised, said Tim Maynard, pastor of Fruit Cove and president of the Florida Baptist State Convention.
“We have taken Jesus at His Word when He says, ‘I was in prison and you visited Me,’” Maynard told Florida Baptist Witness Dec. 10, citing Matt. 25:36. “We believe we really do meet Christ behind the bars of Tomoka prison.”
The unusual ministry connection between Fruit Cove and the medium-to-maximum security prison for men 85 miles away came about as a result of member Bob Bradley’s former work as a pharmaceutical salesman. After learning of the need for a Toastmasters “Gavel Club” to help with inmates’ public speaking and job-seeking skills after they’re released, Bradley began working with the inmates in 2006, with Christian ministries to follow.
Today, the Fruit Cove ministry at Tomoka includes the Gavel Club, weekly Bible studies, chapel services and ongoing discipleship relationships of about a dozen Fruit Cove men with Tomoka’s inmates. The prisoners are incarcerated for a range of crimes, including murder, with sentences up to and including life in prison, according to Marc Krevo, one of the other Fruit Cove leaders.
Inmates who attend at least 90 percent of the Gavel Club and Bible studies are eligible to attend the Christmas banquet.
After learning about the ministry in 2009, Krevo, a ministerial student at The Baptist College of Florida, immediately signed up.
“It was just that quick to see how God was active and personal in men’s lives, and for me to be a part was unquestionable,” Krevo told the Witness Dec. 10.
Christians should care about the “marginalized,” like those in prison, Krevo said, noting many come from broken homes and communities where violence is common.
“For them, much of their life means their family and society has shut the door on them. However, God has not shut the door on them and they need to know that. When these men in prison come to a saving knowledge of the Gospel they begin to be transformed before your eyes,” he said.
Krevo noted there isn’t a problem with an absence of religiosity in prisons—there’s plenty of religion to go around.
“That’s why it is important for the church to realize that equally important to evangelism is discipleship,” he said.
Inmates who come to faith in Christ “desperately need to know what the next step is for their faith, and that is why discipleship is so critical for believers in prison,” said Krevo, who has spent 30 years working in sports television as an engineer, including major events like the Super Bowl.
Although it was “sometimes exciting” to work in sports television, “never have I seen God so active in men’s lives as I have in prison,” he said.
Krevo believes God has called him to prison ministry and he desires to see Florida Baptist churches network with each other in their respective ministries to prisons.
“Prison ministry is a unique mission of the church,” he said. “If men in prison can be changed through a relationship with Jesus Christ, then they can take that witness back with them to the various communities that they once lived in.”
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