Inmate Challenge

By Jennifer Smith

What do you do when an inmate challenges you to come and serve God at a prison?

You pray for God’s direction and then you come, and bring others with you to serve!

This is exactly what Whitney Alexander, the Associate Pastor of Missions, and a group of men from First Presbyterian Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana did.  They have been part of the Malachi Dads program there for approximately ten years and have become like family as they share their lives with the inmate fathers.

“It’s a transformation of the heart,” says Bill Barkus, one of the men serving. “These are not the same people they were when they got incarcerated.” One of these lifer inmates is George Gillam. “He’s such a lovable guy. When you get to know him, you just want to do whatever you can to equip and help him.”

George, front and kneeling, assisting in a home rehab project after his release from prison.

GeeGee Hargon said, “When I got involved with Malachi Dads, I didn’t know what I was getting into. I didn’t know what to expect. But George made me feel comfortable. He broke the stereotype of what men at Angola are like, especially if you know any of the history of Angola.”

“And there are a lot of other men who have been transformed like George,” he added.

“I lost my son three years ago, and you know who counseled me? George and the men in my family group there at Angola.” When George was released from prison shortly after Easter of 2019, the men from First Presbyterian were there to meet him and welcome him back into the community.

“They (First Presbyterian) have proven to be what the church needs to be. They live out First John 3:17-18.”

George Gillam

Today, George is a part of the First Presbyterian congregation, and doesn’t miss a Thursday morning men’s Bible study.  He currently lives in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Baton Rouge. First Presbyterian supports George as he leads an outreach ministry in his neighborhood. The men continue to be mentors in his life, and George is an active part of the congregation.

George has had several job offers and could be the CEO of a company, Bill said, but he has a heart for the inner city and the kids there, because of what he has gone through. That’s where he has been called.

George Gillam

Bill concludes, “We’ve become very honest about things, yet we’re family, we laugh a lot.”

As George Gillam added, later “They (First Presbyterian) have proven to be what the church needs to be. They live out First John 3:17-18. “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

(This article first appeared in the Spring 2021 Lifeline Global Newsletter)

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