In Matthew 25, Jesus commends His followers for visiting those in jail. A team of men from First Church has been answering that call since 2010. In 2013, a number of women also joined the cause. Our Jail Ministry participates in the Chaplain’s program for two Lee County correctional facilities in Fort Myers. Our volunteer force has grown to four Christian book cart teams and five Bible study teams, impacting 250 inmates each week. Our present team consists of 14 men and six women.

Dave Lyons is a former elder of First Church who serves as Jail Ministry Coordinator for our Missions Ministry. “In 1976 as part of my church’s outreach efforts, I organized a team of men that volunteered to conduct weekly Bible studies in our local jail,” he said. “When I moved to Southwest Florida, I wanted to continue this ministry, so I volunteered to serve in the Lee County jails.”

First Church volunteers conduct Bible studies and make themselves available for personal prayer and ministry. Using their spiritual gifts of teaching and evangelism, they are able to open the Word of God to seekers and others who may have fallen away. Those who distribute Christian literature in the inmate housing facilities often have the gifts of encouragement, mercy, and intercession that serve as a source of comfort to those in need.

“During time spent there,” Dave said, “we see each inmate as a child of God and hope to impact their lives with the gospel. Inmates have expressed their appreciation that we take time away from family to be with them. To those incarcerated, time is a precious commodity, and I am grateful God has opened these doors.”

The impact of this ministry is best demonstrated by this note recently received from an inmate:

Hello: You came by this morning with a cart of books and prayed for me and my wife. I just wanted to let you know how much that meant to me. I knew today was going to be a hard day since it was our wedding anniversary and you showing up with a new book was a sign of God hearing me and taking care of me. Your prayer for my wife was this year’s anniversary gift to her. So thank you, and I pray that God will continue to work through you to change lives here.

If you feel the Spirit urging you to serve in our Jail Ministry, please contact Trusha Barner for more information.