Opioid Problem is Pandemic

Opioid Problem is Pandemic

Health officials tell us that between September of 2019 and September of 2020, over 87,000 Americans died of drug overdoses. That is a 29% jump from the previous 12 months. As data for the current year is just beginning to be processed, it is obvious the numbers will be even higher. But this is not just a problem in the United States because every country that gathers and shares data shows equally high numbers. A pandemic is defined as a disease that spreads across several countries, affecting many people. By that definition, our current opioid problem is pandemic. 

One of the efforts made by the Does God Exist? ministry is to reach out to incarcerated people. We offer eleven correspondence courses postage-paid to anyone in prison who would like to study apologetics or Bible topics. One course, titled “Freedom Steps,” is specifically designed for people struggling with substance abuse. Right now, we have over 4,000 men and women involved in these courses, and a significant number of them are in prison directly or indirectly because of drug abuse. Opioids are the most common culprit we see in these prisoners. 

As we consider that the opioid problem is pandemic, we must quickly add that opioids are a valuable medical tool when used properly. The majority of people in prison because of opioids purchased them on the street, but some were on a prescription drug and became addicted. 

For many years we have worked with Buck Griffith and “Kings Crossing Prison Ministries,” an outreach of the Kings Crossing Church of Christ in Corpus Christi, Texas. In 1988, they began a program called “Christians Against Substance Abuse” (CASA). Buck Griffith and Don Umphrey have built a program to help people recover from substance addiction, but recovery is a slow process with no quick fixes. 

One of their successful programs is a series of classes conducted in prisons called “Newlife Behavior.” The big problem we have seen in working with prisoners and substance abuse is that people and congregations don’t stay with it. When a Christian congregation working with prison ministry has a personnel change, it becomes a “new Pharaoh didn’t know Moses” situation, and they drop the program. Jerry Stephenson in Louisville, Kentucky, calls prison ministry “the best-known secret in churches of Christ.” That is a good description of the problem

The opioid problem is pandemic, and substance abuse, in general, is a neglected ministry in the Church. That is something we all need to address. For a registration sheet of the courses we offer, please send us your name and either an email or postal address. The 47th national Jail and Prison Ministry Workshop will be held in Louisville at the Midwest Church of Christ June 9-11. For more information, call 812-207-7156. The Kings Crossing Ministry is at www.kingscrossingprisonministries.org or phone 361-855-3372. 

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Scared Straight, COVID-19, and Prisons

Scared Straight, COVID-19, and Prisons

For many years, we have been involved in a teen program called Scared Straight. The idea was that we could take a teenager who was obviously headed for a life of crime and let them see what it would be like to be incarcerated. Several ex-cons and prisoners have been involved in this very successful program. Unfortunately, the pandemic has put it on temporary hold.

The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas has just released data on COVID-19 in Texas prisons. COVID-19 took the lives of 231 prison inmates and staff during 2020. Nine who had been approved for parole died before they could be released. Positive tests for COVID-19 among prisoners was 490% higher than among the Texas general public. Prisoners taking our correspondence courses tell us about over-crowding and conditions such as lack of masks, hand washing, and sanitation, making them more susceptible to the virus.

It is important to note that these numbers are for state prisons and do not include federal prisons or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities. Those of us who go into prisons to present programs, teach classes, or meet with inmates look forward to the time when we can resume. To keep young people out of prisons, we need to reinstate programs like Scared Straight. Jesus commanded people who help those who are in prison. (See Matthew 25:36)

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Data source: Walking in the Light newsletter from King’s Crossing Prison Ministries, December 2020.

Building a Prison Ministry

Building a Prison Ministry

We have been working with incarcerated men and women since 1960. Building a prison ministry is a challenge, but it is much needed. I can’t tell you how many times I have had a prisoner say to me, “My life is over; nothing matters anymore.” This is especially true of black men and women in prison.

As we said yesterday, one of the heroes of prison ministries is a man named Buck Griffith. He has been responsible for the conversion of literally thousands of prisoners. Not only has Buck done one-on-one work in the prisons, but he also started a program to help people with drug problems. The program called NewLife Behavior Ministries features Christians Against Substance Abuse (CASA) and provides psychological help and support for prisoners.

There is a desperate need for Christians to get involved in helping families and individuals whose lives have been upended. To help individuals and churches in building a prison ministry, Buck has released a book titled Loosed and Forgiven. This 158-page book has 12 chapters. The titles of the chapters tell you about its content:
Chapter 1 – Getting Started
Chapter 2 – A Planned Approach
Chapter 3 – A Few Things About Crime
Chapter 4 – Materials and Tools
Chapter 5 – Wardens and Chaplains
Chapter 6 – Ministering to Females (1)
Chapter 7 – Ministering to females (2)
Chapter 8 – Addiction Recovery
Chapter 12 – Funding the Ministry
Chapter 9 – Follow Up on Those Released
Chapter 10 – Sex Offenders
Chapter 11 – Writing to Prisoners

Prison ministry can be frustrating, and you should not underestimate Satan’s influence. When Satan has had his way with a man or woman, helping that person change life-course is an incredibly rewarding ministry. Buck Griffith has opened the door to building a prison ministry with this book. Congregations or individuals who want to help meet a great need can use it as a guide to get involved.

The New Life Behavior Ministry website is: nlbm.org

The Kings Crossing Prison Ministries website is: kingscrossingprisonministies.org

email nlbcasa@yahoo.com or kcprisonministries@gmail.com

phone 361-855-3372

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Prison Ministries Fill a Vital Need

Prison Ministries Fill a Vital Need

For over 50 years, this ministry has been working in prisons throughout the United States. Prison ministries fill a vital need. Our prison ministry began in the 1960s when I first became a Christian. I went back to share my new-found faith with atheists and skeptics that I had known in my atheist days. I found that a disproportionate number of my old atheist cronies were in prison for one thing or another. As we corresponded, they told me that a large number of their fellow inmates had faith questions.

We wrote our first correspondence course with the goal of helping prisoners regain their faith and start on a road to newness. Humans can justify almost any behavior if they don’t have a functional moral standard to guide their decisions. If they have no faith in the teachings of the Bible, then “survival of the fittest” becomes their standard. Prison ministries fill a vital need.

A control struggle goes on in prisons everywhere, with gangs in almost every prison. Continued dependence on drugs is what has overfilled our penal system. We design our courses to show any open-minded reader that there is a God and that the Bible is His Word. We want to show them that they can depend on Jesus Christ to help them overcome drugs, gangs, and life in the prison system.

We have a very small effort with just over 4,000 students taking our courses, but we are blessed to have a relationship with the Kings Crossing Prison Ministry in Corpus Christi, Texas. Buck Giffith oversees the massive program of Kings Crossing, which has programs to help prisoners overcome drugs. They have basic courses to help prisoners renew their faith, and they visit prisoners in many states.

Prisoners frequently request to be baptized to wash away their past with the sins that got them into prison so they can begin a new life. There are now 410 permanent or portable baptistries in prisons in 37 states and 39 foreign nations. This has resulted in over 15,000 baptisms annually. As prisoners begin their new life, they are put into study programs and receive remedial help as it is needed.

It is one thing to bemoan the fact that the United States leads the world in the number of people incarcerated. It is another thing to do something about it through prison ministries. You can find more about the Kings Crossing program and how to contact them on their website: kingscrossingprisonministries.org

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Prison Ministries Neglected and Forgotten

Prison Ministries Neglected and Forgotten

In today’s world, prison ministries get very little attention. DOES GOD EXIST? has had prison work as a part of its program from the beginning. In 1968 we did our first program in a prison although I had previously worked in prisons in the South Bend area with a sister in Christ named Helen Richards. I worked in prisons and with teenagers because no one else wanted to do it. Even my background as an atheist didn’t seem to bother either one of those populations.

I have stayed involved with both youth and prison ministries for over 50 years now. The need for Christians to get involved with prison ministries continues to grow. Arrests for drug possession have increased to such an extent that the United States has the world’s largest population of people in prison. Why do most congregations have no active prison ministries and no interest in spending time and money to start one?

The answer to that question is quite complex. Many congregations lack interest because converting a prisoner doesn’t bring any numerical increase in attendance, finance, or solutions to problems. Frequently people who are in prison are not the easiest people to deal with. They are depressed, frustrated, suspicious, and in need. Many have experienced violence in one way or the other. In spite of that, the Bible is full of examples of how prisoners should be treated. You can’t read the New Testament without finding a reference to prison work. (See Hebrews 13:3, Philemon 10, Philippians 1: 12-14, Acts 16:22-40; 24:23, Matthew 25:39, 44-45).

You don’t find atheists, humanists, naturalists, or evolutionists doing much work in prisons. What I do find is that many of the 3800 students taking our apologetic course are prisoners. They are also people who had lost their faith in God and the Bible and were living a “survival of the fittest” belief system that didn’t work. Disillusioned with secular humanism, atheism, and naturalism there are many prisoners desperately wanting evidence to rekindle their faith in God. We have donated our DVD series to over 100 prisons throughout the country and have found huge acceptance to them among prisoners. We frequently do single session workshops in prisons and find that the prisoners are hungry to learn and anxious to build a working faith.

The big problem with many prisons is that gangs run the prison system. Prisoners are moved from prison to prison to break up the gangs, but in some prisons the gangs have control. Education is a primary tool for addressing this problem. It is vital that prisoners know where to find help, and our materials are available without cost. Kings Crossing Prison Ministries in Corpus Christi, Texas, has materials available to help anyone who wishes to make a difference in the lives of men and women who desperately want to return to living a life of faith.

You can contact us at Does God Exist? 1555 Echo Valley Drive, Niles MI 49120 or jnc@aol.com. Kings Crossing is located at 3833 South Staples, Suite S-101, Corpus Christi, TX 78411. Their email is kcprisonministries@gmail.com. Their website is www.kingscrossingprisonministries.org.

–John N. Clayton © 2019

New Life Behavior Ministries

New Life Behavior Ministries
New Life Behavior Ministries is a project of the Kings Crossing Church of Christ in Corpus Christi, Texas. For years we have worked with Buck Griffith and that ministry.

We refer prisoners completing our courses to them. Their team members visit the prisoners and provide personal needs and baptism if requested. We also refer prisoners with drug problems to their CASA study. CASA is an acronym for Christians Against Substance Abuse. This program has had a hugely beneficial effect on recidivism.

The New Life Behavior Ministries has begun a “Vet Net” program which offers special postage-paid courses (inside the United States) to veterans of all branches of the service and their family members–active or reserve. The top five courses in enrollment numbers are:
Christian Marriage Skills
Attitudes and Behaviors
Christians Against Substance Abuse
Managing My Anger
The “Seeker” Bible Study Series

We would like to make our readers aware of this great program, especially those working with military families. Contact information is:

Prison Ministry
3833 South Staples Suite S-101
Corpus Christi Tx 78411
Phone 361-855-3372 Fax 361-855-7469
email: nlbcasa@yahoo.com
Website: www.kingscrossingprisonministries.org.

The congregation is at:
Kings Crossing Prison Ministries
Kings Crossings Church of Christ
5901 Yorktown Boulevard
Corpus Christi, Texas 78414

Prison ministry is difficult work, but very important in today’s culture.
–John N. Clayton © 2018