Christ at Work in a Juvenile Institution

By Erin Bell, DMin

Chaplain, Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility, Highland Hills, Ohio

Elder, Hope Alliance Bible Church, Maple Heights, Ohio

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The Lord Jesus gave the Great Commission to His church to make disciples, which involves baptizing and teaching. While working as a full time Chaplain with the Ohio Department of Youth Services at Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility in Highland Hills, Ohio, I began my journey towards ordination with the Central District of the C&MA. My primary responsibility is to the young men, ages fourteen to twenty years old, who have committed felony level offenses. I was inspired to begin to align the ministry in the facility with the values and mission of the C&MA.  I began with teaching the basic doctrines of the Christian faith as contained in the C&MA statement of faith.

I am blessed to work with a team of faithful volunteers from Youth for Christ, Hope Alliance Bible Church, Grace Church, Christ Community Chapel, and several churches in the Greater Cleveland area. I worked with a team of 22 volunteers from Christ Community Chapel and Youth for Christ to conduct a special program on baptism. As a result, I met with each youth who requested baptism to explain the meaning and the process, and on Wednesday, February 13, 2019, I baptized 19 youth in the facility.

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Volunteers sang worship music throughout the service and I immersed the youth one at a time in a portable baptism pool with the help of volunteer Dave Rosati (Deacon from Christ Community Chapel). The presence of the Lord could be felt as many volunteers were weeping for joy and youth expressed joy and excitement.

The command to make disciples, baptize, and teach applies to incarcerated people as well. The Lord has a team of witnesses who are called to prison ministry. We have a mandate to equip the saints for the work of the ministry in correctional facilities, in the community, and to the ends of the earth.