By Dana Smith | Published: January 30, 2015
Hopelessness can be as much of a prison as the actual walls and bars at the Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) near Lindsay, Ontario (pictured right). However, for the men and women in the CECC—a medium- and maximum-security prison with a capacity of almost 1,200 male and female inmates—freedom that comes with hope in Jesus Christ can be found even while they are detained in a correctional facility.
FOR 11 YEARS, Chaplain Randy Dyer has been on the front lines of bringing that message of hope to the CECC. Dyer, along with a handful of other chaplains and about 20 long-term volunteers, is dedicated to sharing the Gospel with people at a critical junction in their lives.
When one of the volunteers suggested showing inmates the My Hope videos from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Dyer knew this was exactly the kind of message needed for those in the facility.
“This is from Billy Graham, and it’s about hope, an expectation of future good,” said Dyer. “A lot of our guys are pretty hopeless, and some of them are in the position they’re in because they are hopeless, and that plays out in their lives. My Hope is a fabulous message for them.”
The message of hope found in the Gospel often resonates with inmates, Dyer explained, prompting them to share the message with others in the correctional facility. He said those who have committed or re-committed their lives to Christ often begin Bible studies in their own areas of the prison.
Several committed volunteer Bible teachers assist the four staff chaplains in reaching out to as many inmates as possible.
Brian McLeod, who has volunteered at the CECC for more than a decade, took early retirement from his job so he could spend more time teaching and mentoring inmates.
He has already shown the My Hope videos nearly 50 times—to about 360 prisoners.
The inmates are impressed by the personal testimonies in the videos.
“They’ve heard all sorts of things about what they’re supposed to do,” McLeod said. “But when they hear how committing their lives to Christ has worked for somebody, that really makes a difference.” The correctional centre has a frequent turnover of inmates, so McLeod never knows how many people he will have an opportunity to reach with the Gospel. Because of that, every Bible study he leads includes a message of salvation through Jesus Christ, a message that is entrenched in the My Hope ministry.
The 2013 My Hope film The Cross includes a message from Mr. Graham and is spliced with portions of his classic, powerful sermons.
“The cross is offensive because it confronts people,” Mr. Graham said in the film. “Even so, it is a confrontation that all of us must face. Jesus Christ, from the cross, says, ‘I will save you. I will forgive you. I will change you. I will make you a new person, if you come to the cross by repentance and faith.’ Come to Christ. The Bible says that in spite of our rebellion and rejection that God loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His Son to die for your sins.”
The video stories of lives turned to Christ, and the invitation from Mr. Graham for viewers to invite Christ into their hearts, often brings about an immediate and emotional response from inmates.
“I know that there have been guys who, after watching the video, have said the prayer at the end with Mr. Graham—that’s quite a thing,” McLeod said. “You can get discouraged [trying to spread the Good News in prison], but once in a while you get some feedback that really cheers a guy up.”
Because so many of the inmates are exposed to the My Hope videos for only a short period of time before leaving the prison, McLeod always encourages them to visit the MyHopeWithBillyGraham.ca website so they can continue to grow in their faith.
“A good number are being reached for salvation, and a lot more are re-dedicating their lives,” he said. D ©2014 BGEA
You can use the My Hope with Billy Graham ministry—including the new Heaven video—to reach out to friends, neighbors, family members, and colleagues with the Good News of salvation. Please call 1.800.293.3717 to get your copy of the My Hope Community Outreach Kit. It includes the new Heaven video, plus other materials that will help you organize a My Hope event. Please also consider financially partnering with us to continue this vital, life-changing ministry.