NEWS: Lykins: A walk in faith with incarcerated men during COVID-19

Marion Star

December 16, 2020

Dawn Lykins

Guest columnist

This year has been a different experience for all of us, including the incarcerated men at North Central Correctional Complex. Many of them have relied upon their faith to get them through the trying times of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our offenders have supported one another during these difficult times by uplifting and encouraging the continuance of group faith studies in the dorms. We have multiple denominations amongst our incarcerated men who have been impacted. An Islamic offender feels that one has to have inner peace and strength that can be found by building a strong foundation of faith. “I find that better through my faith and, although why it might not be the specific vehicle for everyone, the principals of morality, personal development and how to treat others can be universal,” he said. “Faith can be the most powerful means to that end and life beyond that.”
One Christian offender from a very early age has been on his faith journey. To this day, his incarceration has made a huge impact on the journey, realizing “I need God now more than ever.”“Being able to share my testimony has opened the doors for many others to share theirs and be heard,” said the Christian offender. “Being a good listener is probably the most important thing we can do for someone. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions and not being able to conduct church services, it has pushed a lot of us to try harder to spread the gospel ourselves by holding Bible studies and offering prayer over others as a believer in Christ and following the great commission which Christ has commanded us”.

Another Christian offender said his aunt used to take him to church and Sunday school as a young child, instilling in him Godly values and beliefs. “Proverbs 22:6 says ‘To train up a child in the way he should go and when he gets older he won’t depart from it.’ Well, I did depart from it, but my aunt lives on through me to make the biggest impact while I’m incarcerated in this part of my faith journey,” he said. “I have learned why the greatest commandment that Jesus spoke which is in Matthew 22:36-39 it says ‘To love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment, and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. Prayer for your brother is the very most that one can do. “Under normal operations, we would have volunteers such as Dan and Nancy Orr along with Midge Armbruster (and late husband, Tom) conduct non-denominational Bible studies and baptisms through their music as they have done for the past 23 years. Jim Bright, one of our Jehovah Witness volunteers, has been coming into the prisons for 47 years to conduct ministry schooling and Bible readings. Under modified operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they have not been able to come in to meet with our offenders. Dan Orr stated that previously he met with smaller groups of the offender population to conduct Bible studies and baptisms but, with the pandemic, he has been able to reach out to the entire offender population through inspirational and encouraging messages as well as excerpts from the Bible via JPay messages.