By: James Pruitt
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
Local supporters of an Indiana-based prison ministry filled the auditorium at an area church April 29 to celebrate its successes and growth.
The Gospel Echoes Team returned to the Pettisville Missionary Church as nearly 200 people came out for dinner, heard some good Southern Gospel music and listened to a message from an Arizona chaplain.
The Gospel Echoes Team has offices in the United States and Canada and ministers to more than 700 prison. Its main effort is to reach out to inmates with an eight-part Bible study that introduces men and women to the life-changing power of Jesus Christ.
The ministry has sent out more than 125,000 Bible studies. A volunteer network of graders reviews the work the inmates do on the studies.
Graduates total 5,864.
That is significant because the ministry reports that 70 percent of the inmates who go through their discipleship program do not return to prison.
One of the more popular publications is the Scripture address book. It provides space for names and addresses of loved ones, current and next year calendars and scripture references.
In addition, GET has issued 6,330 New Life Study Testaments. These are 850-word simplified easy-to-read New Testaments.
The ministry preaches freedom and quotes the Gospel where Jesus praises those who visit prisoners. For those who will never leave the walls, the goal is to make them shine as lights in a dark place.
“Jesus is our jailbreak,” was a line said at the event.
Attendees were entertained by two of the ministry’s bands, Harvest Team and Mercy Road Team. Both include extended families and each produced lively harmonies.
The speaker, Chaplain Samuel Lee, is a tall African-American man who has spent 26 years working at the Arizona State Prison. He was an officer for 10 years before transitioning into his current role.
He brought an enthusiastic style of preaching to the event. He said he was a “talk to me” preacher where he would ask the audience a question and expect to get a collective “Amen” in return.
“I am used to preaching to a captive audience where I can talk a long time,” Lee said. Since the audience Friday night was not so captive, yet captivated, he promised a shorter talk.
His message came from the book Acts, chapter 9, which talks of the healing of Saul by Ananias after his conversion on the road to Damascus. Lee said Ananias was the one God had in mind for the moment, despite Saul’s history of persecuting the church.
“Are you the one,” Lee asked the crowd. “God used one man for a special assignment. “
“God can use you also.”
While some inmates go free, others who stay in prison are free as well. The experience of seeing hardened criminals transform is one he won’t forget.
“I have seen men get saved through the power of Jesus Christ,” Lee said. “There is no greater testimony than that.”
Lee challenged the audience to give God a praise clap for what He is going to do in the future because “His credit is good.”
James Pruitt may be reached at