High Country Prison Ministry
By Jody Griffin
Avery and Mitchell County
“Also, I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” (Isaiah 6:8, KJV)
I was privileged to serve for twenty-one years in the Army Reserves. Fifteen of those years were as a member of the NC Army National Guard. At the ripe ‘old age’ of 17, my father drove me to the Recruiter’s office and waited for me to “volunteer” for service. I had become part of what is known as the “All-Volunteer” Force. I admit that I was powerless in the face of my father’s demand. ‘Volunteer’ was what you might say was a “relative term” …
The call to serve God is also often an irresistible force. (Just ask Jonah…) One might wonder what would compel someone to enter into the world of the incarcerated willfully. Yet every day, in correctional facilities around the state of North Carolina, that call is answered by those who come not for pay or financial benefit, but for the deep-seated satisfaction of having helped a fellow human being. They are known by the name, “Volunteer”.
Some come to teach, some to preach, all to encourage. The Truth is that they come freely, giving of their time, talents and testimonies. They come in response to a call, and they come issuing a call. They challenge those they serve to grow and to become the very best versions of themselves. When one sees it happening, one can hardly resist being moved.
I have witnessed this reality many times. Volunteers are compelled to come and share their knowledge, their talents and their wisdom with those who are cut off from these opportunities as a result of their incarceration. These volunteers arrive from a variety of places and bring a broad spectrum of experiences with them. They undergo training to gain access to the institutions they enter. They agree to operate within the guidelines of the Department of Corrections. They come knowing that they might have a room full of men to share with or just a few men. Still, they enter the gates seeking to offer hope and wisdom. And they exit each time having left an imprint on those whom they offer their efforts.
At Avery Mitchell Correctional Institution we are blessed beyond measure through the men and women who come volunteering their time and energies in so many ways! And each year the volunteers who serve are recognized at an event honoring them for their service. A highlight of our year, the Volunteer Appreciation Banquet includes a guest speaker, refreshments, music, and inspiring words from select offenders whose lives have been positively affected by our volunteers’ service. It never fails to be a meaningful time.
It takes a unique person to volunteer inside prison walls, and there is a word that describes our volunteers at Avery Mitchell Correctional Institution very well. I use this space to say, “Special Thanks to Special People”!
If you would be interested in becoming a volunteer, please let me know and I will connect you with those who can assist you! May God Bless You for saying, “Here am I! Send me!”
Jody Griffin is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Spruce Pine and Community Funded Chaplin at Avery-Mitchell Correctional Institution. If you would like more information contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.