More than four years ago, Bill Pond would not have considered doing prison ministry. But somehow that changed when he moved to Ritzville, Wash. He heard of the need for more volunteers and decided to give it a try. He filled out the paperwork and was approved to volunteer at Coyote Ridge Correction Center in Connell, Wash. Now he goes each Sabbath morning to the minimum security facility at 8 a.m. for Bible study.
Pond introduces the lesson, but the study is led by a prisoner who uses the regular Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath School lesson. The men volunteer to read a page. Of the 18 or so men in the group, “none of the guys have ever returned to prison,” says Pond. “Friends still in prison receive letters from those who have left, and they let them know they are clean.”
“We have a lot of respect for the men in prison whose lives have changed through this ministry,” says Pond, who is joined by volunteers from Moses Lake and Richland, Wash.
Pond travels back to Ritzville church for Sabbath service then returns in the evening with other Ritzville Church volunteers to assist with “Celebrate Recovery,” a Christian-oriented 12-step program. This is attended by as many as 65 prisoners. Many of the guys come just for the coffee. They are greeted, they hear testimonies from guys who are working on the various steps to recover from their bad deeds and/or habits, and there is a lot of interaction. “They study the Bible and sing,” says Pond, “and it just really moves your heart.”
Pond relates this story: “One of the leaders, in prison 15 years for robbery, said it took him five years before he found Christ. Once he did, he went to work to help many of the guys in prison. He got out a year ago. God has just opened doors for him. First he did a business where he restored houses for the banks for repossessions. Then he applied for a job with full benefits for a grain company. To get a job like that when you have been in prison is rare. But he got the job. His friend got out of prison and also went into business restoring homes, and eventually he also got a job at the same feed company through the influence of the first guy.”
“I know the Holy Spirit is the one doing the work," Pond says. "We just knock on their hearts' door and give God a chance to come in. It is a wonderful blessing to see one change their life. Both of these guys are great workers. I’d hire them in a heartbeat.”
Prison ministry is dear to the heart of Bill Pond. Traveling each Sabbath to Connell morning and evening is not a burden for him nor are the miles put on his car. “It’s okay," he says. "I don’t mind one bit.”