Northwestern’s mission statement talks about doing God’s redeeming work in the world. Zoe Heemstra and Lily Anderson are doing just that. They want to be able to share with people within the prisons that have been forgotten about in a sense. Heemstra and Anderson talked about the overall reason as to why they started the Prison Ministry as the Justice and Service Coordinators.
Prison ministry isn’t for everyone, but it gives the people that are a part of it an eye-opening experience and how they can live out the mission statement as sons and daughters in Christ. This type of opportunity is difficult, and there is no way to help everyone. Not everyone that you are going to meet while doing ministry work is going to be saved or have a conversion right there in the prison.
Heemstra and Anderson are doing just that as Justice and Service coordinators.
When asked why they chose to start doing prison visits, Heemstra said, “We believe that prison ministry is an opportunity to reach people that have become excluded from society. It’s a congregation of incarcerated people dedicated to bettering each other and the world through the work of the Holy Spirit.”
They gather regularly to speak hope in an often hopeless place. The ministry is a great way to show the inmates that they have value, are still cared about and are still loved by Jesus.
The prison ministry is a time of fellowship and worship with the inmates. The students get to hear the inmates’ stories and vice versa. The visits are an opportunity for inmates to see that there are still people walking alongside them in life and are never alone.
As much as the prison visits benefit the inmates, it also encourages the students.
On Oct. 10, they visited Livingstone Prison Church in Springfield, South Dakota, and will be visiting Cornerstone Prison Church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in November. The group will also be returning to these prisons in the spring.
In regards to the first visit, Anderson said, “It was very eye-opening for everyone involved. We thought we were going to change their lives and witness to them, but their personal stories, experiences, and faith were an encouragement to all of us.”
If anyone is wanting to get involved in the prison ministry, they can contact either Anderson or Heemstra at their NW emails. They can give students more information if they are interested in the prison ministry or if they want to be involved in the work happening on campus.