God Is Working in Prison Ministry

By Gabriel Stovall

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that God’s Spirit is drawing people to Jesus in prisons all across North America every day. But, in the case of North American Mission Board Chaplain Phyllis McMinn Brewer, God has truly been showing His hand in miraculous, salvific ways just in the last few weeks at the Greenville, South Carolina County Detention Center where Brewer serves.

For Brewer, anytime she sees a person give his or her life to Jesus, it’s a cause for celebration. But the celebration is sweeter when a person trades in a false god for the One, true and living God!

“An Islamic male inmate had been placed in isolation for a week with only a Bible in his cell,” Chaplain Brewer recalls. “He read it for the duration of his isolation, and then he told us that he’d always felt an emptiness regarding the Islamic faith. After reading the Gospels, he stated that he believed that Jesus is the Son of God. He repented of his sins on the spot and asked the Lord to save him.”

Having served as an endorsed correctional chaplain for the Southern Baptist Convention since 2012, Chaplain Phyllis is accustomed to ministering to people from vastly different walks of life and religious persuasions — even staunch practitioners of the occult. In the last few weeks, though, Brewer has seen two wiccans make decisions for Christ.

“One was a female wiccan inmate,” she said. “She’s the mom of a dwarf son who passed away from health complications not too along ago. Unfortunately, she was not allowed to attend his funeral due to her charges.”

But right before this mother’s son passed away, he gave his mom one last spiritual challenge.

“Some of his last words to her were, ‘Mama, please give Jesus a chance,’” Brewer said. “Shortly after that, she asked for us to explain the gospel message to her, and that triggered her to give her life to the Lord.

When Brewer talks about her ministry in the prison, her passion for it is palpable. She understands that her prison ministry isn’t for everyone. But it can be supremely gratifying to those called to serve in this unique institutional setting.

“In prisons and jails, there are hundreds of thousands of people who want to hear of the love and grace of Jesus Christ,” she says. “The reply of a chaplain is the same as that of the prophet Isaiah: ‘Here am I. Send me.’”

Chaplain Phyllis wants people to train themselves to look differently at those who are incarcerated – to see them not just as problematic people or menaces to society, but through the eyes of a loving Savior who died for them, just as He did for the rest of us.

“Jail and prison chaplaincy is a matter of perspective,” Brewer said. “We must see with God’s eyes. We must see beyond a criminal offender’s miserable state to see their potential. The message of a risen Savior is what lost prisoners need to hear, for this is the only message that can save.”

Often, it is only the prison chaplain who will take the time to connect with an inmate and treat them with human decency, respect and love.

“Too many times, family and friends give up on those in prison and jails,” she said. “No one visits. No calls. No letters. Chaplains come alongside the incarcerated with listening ears, acts of kindness, encouraging prayers, but most importantly, we share the Word of God. Many choose to avoid and ignore the dark side of the human condition and behavior. But the gospel calls Christians to stand with those who are in darkness. This is exactly what a prison chaplain does.

“As a correctional facility chaplain, I have the privilege of being the hands and feet of Jesus as I share His love and mercy with those behind prison bars, bound by physical chains and chains of sin. I get to step into their chaos and share the good news of forgiveness, salvation and restoration found only in our Lord Jesus Christ! It’s a privilege to serve the incarcerated as a Southern Baptist chaplain.”

This is just a small sample of how God’s Spirit is powerfully at work among our NAMB prison chaplains, especially. Please keep them in prayer as they put themselves on the frontlines of spiritual warfare daily.

Published August 25, 2021

Gabriel Stovall

Gabriel Stovall writes for the North American Mission Board.