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Home > Interpreter Magazine > Archives > 2011 Archives > January-February 2011 > Ministry nurtures at-risk kids of inmates

Ministry nurtures at-risk kids of inmates

Joy Block-Wright spent 18 months in federal prison for forgery.
Joy Block-Wright, stands with young participants in Redemption Kids, a ministry that works with the children of the incarcerated.
Joy Block-Wright, stands with young participants in Redemption Kids, a ministry that works with the children of the incarcerated.
COURTESY REDEMPTION KIDS
Today she directs Redemption Kids, a ministry for children and youth, ages 6 to 18, whose parents are incarcerated.

"I've always had Christ in my life," Block-Wright said, "but I backslid very badly."

When she was released from prison, Block-Wright and her children went to live at Exodus House, one of several re-entry and recovery ministries of Penn Avenue Redemption United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City. It's typical of those the United Methodist Human Relations Day offering supports.

For 15 years, the church has supported inmates and their families by offering a diverse choice of classes and 12-step programs.

Each week a van picks up more than 150 inmates for three worship services. Perhaps most importantly, the Redemption Kids program, along with the summer New Day camp, reaches out to prisoners' children.

Twelve-year-old Anthony Boyd—Block-Wright's son—has thrived in Redemption Kids. "It's helped me stay out of trouble," he said. "I hear a lot of stories from these inmates. I don't want to talk to somebody that doesn't know what I'm going through."

The adults offer sage advice.

"Some kids," Anthony explained, "want to be cool. But doing stuff like drugs or stealing or anything like that, that's not cool."

Along with fun things like dancing, Anthony's sister Antonia, 10, said Redemption Kids teaches life lessons. "I like the church," she said. She listens carefully to the sermons.

"I want to follow in (the leaders') footsteps, and I won't go to prison."

Oklahoma statistics indicate that half of the children of incarcerated parents will end up in prison.

"We're always optimistic that if we can show (children and youth) some alternative lifestyle, some alternative decision-making skills, then perhaps they don't have to be one of those statistics," says the Rev. Steve Byrd, Redemption Church pastor and associate director of criminal justice and mercy ministries for the Oklahoma Conference.

Adapted from a United Methodist News Service story by Barbara Dunlap-Berg, internal content editor, United Methodist Communications.

Human Relations Day

Human Relations Day is officially observed in United Methodist churches on the Sunday before the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., (Sunday, Jan. 16, 2011). The offering supports youth offender rehabilitation and Community Developer programs and United Methodist Voluntary Services. Obtain free resources to promote the offering at www.umcgiving.org/hrd or by calling  (888) 346-3862. Human Relations Sunday may be observed on any Sunday a congregation chooses.




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