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Finding Faith: Ministry helps inmates find God, re-enter society

For two years, the pandemic had prevented Heart of Clay Ministry from offering opportunities to inmates at the Clay County Correctional Facility. The return has been joyous not only for the inmates, but also for the volunteers who are seeing large groups return to the Bible studies.

Devlyn Brooks 2021
Devlyn Brooks
Contributed
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May marked an important milestone for the Heart of Clay Ministry , which is headquartered in Moorhead, Minnesota, and serves the Clay County Correctional Facility.

That’s when the organization’s volunteers returned to the correctional facility after two years away. The pandemic had prevented them from offering ministry and educational opportunities to the inmates.

For a year prior to May, volunteers were able to offer one-to-one ministry but, last month, the organization again was able to offer group Bible study opportunities, as well as life skills classes. The return has been joyous not only for the inmates, but also for the volunteers who are seeing large groups return to the Bible studies.

But this important ministry’s work doesn’t end there.

Violet Deilke, a founding member of the organization, and a continuing volunteer and board member, says Heart of Clay’s ministry is vital to helping the inmates find God, help them re-enter society and avoid incarceration.

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“When these people get out of (the correctional facility), they don’t go away,” Deilke said. “They’re our neighbors. We want to help them.”

Because the ministry’s ultimate goal is to avoid recidivism, Heart of Clay’s support of the inmates doesn’t end when someone is released.

The organization also leases three homes in Moorhead, where released folks can live in a Christ-centered environment, receive more training in life skills, help in finding a job or educational opportunities, and be surrounded by people who’ll help them refrain from activities that will land them back in the correctional facility.

However, none of this ministerial work is cheap, quick or easy, according to Heart of Clay’s leaders. So to continue this vital work, the ministry could use some help.

Financial donations are good, of course, but this ministry also needs loving people to teach classes, be mentors, become a letter-writing pal and to pray for the inmates.

Sometimes, postcard-writing is more important than anything, according to Heart of Clay chaplain Ryan Lewis.

“Maybe the most powerful thing we do is the postcards,” he said. “For the inmates, it feels so good to be acknowledged. Receiving a postcard reminds them that there is someone who cares.”

Dielke, a veteran of Heart of Clay now for almost a decade, admits that finding the means to provide support for people in a correctional facility is a challenge. But she said, Heart of Clay continues to find a way.

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“We need people to help walk alongside these people,” she said. “We need people to love on these people!”

Talk about being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ! … “And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:40)

You can find the Heart of Clay website at www.heartofclay.org .

Devlyn Brooks, who works for Modulist, a Forum Communications Co.-owned company, is an ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. He serves as pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Wolverton, Minnesota. He can be reached at devlyn.brooks@forumcomm.com for comments and story ideas.

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