A ministry inside the jail walls

Published 1:00 pm Sunday, March 12, 2017

Three members of a local church are helping Freeborn County inmates establish themselves as productive members of society by showing them faith in a higher power.

Grace Christian Church members Jim Fisher and the Revs. Jill and George Marin minister with the church’s bilingual ministry, Beyond The Walls.

George Marin brings his iPod and Bluetooth Bose speaker to play music ranging from Elvis Presley to gospel to Spanish.

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“When they are from a different culture or they speak a different language and they see that you are attempting to connect with them, man, that just builds an immediate bridge,” he said. “An immediate bond is formed.”

Ministry is part of Grace Christian’s mission of spreading Jesus Christ’s message by reaching out to all people, he said.

“We are there because as followers of Jesus Christ, he said, ‘Go,’” George Marin said.

“It’s a huge passion for us at Grace.”   

He said he is thankful for the jail’s contract with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, because it has allowed the church to reach inmates from 42 countries without having to go on expensive mission trips.

“It gives the American church a real up on the great commission, in that the world is coming to us,” he said. “These are ministry opportunities that we can fill without spending a lot of money.”

Fisher meets weekly with inmates to present his testimony of how devoting his life to Christ has helped him. He wants to encourage inmates and provide them hope that a productive life lives outside jail walls.

Fisher, who grew up without a father, shares with inmates the responsibilities of becoming a father and being a man of courage.

“With God, all things are possible,” Fisher said.

George Marin said Fisher is able to connect with inmates through talking about his childhood.

“Jim really connects with many of those men who do not have a father,” he said.

George Marin said the ministry gives inmates a father they have been missing, and he sees the impact Fisher’s ministry has on the inmates when he visits the jail the last Thursday of each month. For a service in January, inmates were kneeling on the floor during the ministry. 

“It is that message of fatherlessness that really seizes the attention of a lot of these men that we deal with, because we introduce God as their father, then somebody like (Jim) or myself as a mentor in their life,” he said.

He said Fisher’s message goes beyond criminal cases.

“He’s not there to talk to them about their case, he is there to talk to them about their standing with God, and their eternity,” George Marin said.

George Marin said he receives calls from parents of inmates from other counties who discuss his ministry.

Jill Marin leads a women’s ministry at the jail. A lot of inmates are broken, feel bad about themselves and have family issues, she said. To her, having someone stable visit with them is important. She has also led anger management classes,

“It’s good to find positive ways to cope with anger, so it does not turn into a negative outcome for somebody,” she said. 

The Marins, who have ministered at the jail for about 20 years, have also ministered at La Mesa prison in Tijuana, Mexico. The Marins are chemical dependency chaplains at Fountain Centers.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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