Students and leaders from the college ministry at University Heights Baptist Church in Huntsville, as a part of Sports Reach Texas, traveled to a detention center in Waco, TX in November. College ministry leader Travis Henderson shares about their experience.
This was our first trip to this privately operated co-gender facility which housed county inmates and federal detainees. Like any trip to a new facility, there was some apprehension about how the day would play out. That quickly dissipated when Warden Richard Alford met us in the parking lot. Warden Alford informed us that there were 175 females housed at the facility that day and his goal was for all 175 of the women to hear the gospel. Our girls quickly accepted the challenge.
During this trip, a large group of our girls headed for the recreation yard to play volleyball and share the gospel to larger groups. A smaller group went with a correctional officer to housing areas to share the gospel and invite the women out to the recreation yard. Warden Alford escorted three of us to administrative segregation to share the gospel with eight women housed there.
The first girl we got to share with accepted Christ! It was amazing watching someone come to faith through a solid metal door. Steel doors and locks cannot stop God’s word! The volleyball player’s and other girls with them had great success in sharing the Good News. We had 22 women accept Christ that day! They had a great time playing volleyball, sharing the Word, but most of all making new friends and praying together.
A week or so later, the Warden called again and asked if we would be interested in coming back to do baptisms. Of course we were excited about the opportunity! On January 7th, 2017, we loaded up and headed back to Waco. The first number of women that we heard who wanted to be baptized was 28. By the next week it was in the 30’s, but when we arrived there were 48 women wanting to be baptized. Big thanks to Barbara, a sweet volunteer that goes on a weekly basis to minister to these ladies and helped us get the baptisms set up.
We met in a hallway in the booking area and had a time of worship and God’s word. There was a horse trough set up in the middle of the hallway for the baptisms. It was an amazing sight to see women lined up to get baptized. While they were waiting, our girls prayed, laughed and cried with them. Before being baptized, we got to visit with them individually to make sure they understood the gospel and the significance of baptism. The 48 baptisms took place in the hall with cheers, tears and smiles. After the baptisms, we had a birthday party in the chapel to celebrate their new birth in Christ that included cookies, cake and punch. During this time we were able to visit and encourage our new sisters in Christ.
There was also a woman under psychiatric watch who had just found out that she received a life sentence and will likely die in prison. She was suicidal and under direct observation. They had taken her clothes away and given her a paper robe so she would not use the clothing to hang herself. She had ripped up her robe and was in the cell naked. She was beating on the door and hitting her head on the door and wall.
The warden looked at me and told the assistant warden to find a girl with us named Emily, one that had been with us in psych on the previous trip. Emily walked up to the small glass in the door and talked to this distraught lady. After about two minutes, she stopped beating on the door. Emily talked to her for an hour, sharing hope, the love of our Savior and prayer. It was AMAZING, this poor lady was out of control, and God used a college student to calm the situation. God is so good. This was a unique trip. We were able to see the fruits from our previous trip and encourage this group of offenders to continue living a life of faith.
Photos contributed by Libby Rogers.
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