Our ministry provides hope and the word of God to the boys imprisoned at the Gainesville State School. Once a month, we visit the boys there and celebrate the birthdays of the month. We celebrate with them, talk with them, listen to them and hopefully provide a source of truth, faith and hope. Matthew 25:35-40.
On the 3rd Sunday of each month, a group of parishioners travels to Gainesville to visit the boys imprisoned at the State School there. These boys are 14-18 years old who have committed felonies against the people and the state of Texas. The school is a beautiful campus that sits on 100 acres of rolling hills with many trees. It houses roughly four hundred boys and includes a large gymnasium, a modern cafeteria, and a lovely chapel where all of the boys are encouraged to attend. It also includes about twelve individual buildings that serve as the dormitories for thirty six boys each. Our mission team sponsors the boys in one of these dormitories for monthly birthday parties, fellowship, and many times, individual relationships that grow out of the meetings into one on one mentoring opportunities.
At each visit, the team enters the campus through a secure entrance, much like airport security, and walks to the dorm we sponsor. Upon arrival, they set up in a common area that is used for indoor recreation such as reading, television, or games. They pray together and listen to a message of scripture by one of our team. This message is usually designed to mix the word of God with the culture the boys understand. They then celebrate the birthdays of the month, eat cake, ice cream, sodas, and assorted treats. Sometimes, pizzas or burritos are included as special treats not typical of their state diet. They love it! Next, they just fellowship individually or with small groups. This is where we learn about their families, their dreams, and their plans for the future… and where some of the individual relationships develop.
Every one in our Parish is encouraged to participate in this incredible ministry and make a difference to these boys. They often don't know why we are there and why we care. They have only known selfishness, unfaithfulness, and mistrust among the people in their lives. We just represent the Lord and the love He sends to all of His children, regardless of their walk in life. It is not our work, but His that we take to the prison.