By Katie Sobiech
The Way Out Prison Ministry has been going strong and staying faithful to their call for 31 years now. For those who aren’t aware of what they do, they visit those in prison, jail and half-way houses bringing church to them, building relationships and helping ex-offenders transition back into society. Most of what they do isn’t broadcasted, but is newsworthy. In a typical month they might lead over 125 services with more than 1,000 people in attendance, shining light into the darkest of places.
Most recently their Christmas Outreach is preparing to give away tons of gifts to inmates, some who have never received a gift in their entire life. This all wraps into sharing the love of Christ with those who need it most.
As they continue to touch hearts through their ministry, The Way Out has also made some additions to their team.
Robb Martin, owner of MindShift Coaching and Consulting, an experienced businessman and banker who spent 5 years as Executive and Chief Operating Officer at the Chapel, has now come on board with the ministry. This addition brings hope for new things in the ministry.
After speaking at The Way Out’s banquet in April, Martin knew he needed to help this ministry in some way.
“It really weighed heavily on me, just scripturally, that we’re instructed to visit those in jail,” Martin said.
As for what he’ll bring to the table he says, “I think I’ll bring spiritual sensitivity, yet a sense of corporate direction. This role is the perfect chance to bring those two things together. We don’t see much of that and that’s my hope and dream for this.”
His experience in working in churches and the business world have prepared him well for this type of endeavor.
“Bill (Wilder, Director of Ministry) does a wonderful job as Chaplain, he’s running that end of it, and I’m very thankful for him doing that because he’s very good at it. I’m more administrative and interested in developing the organization,” Martin explained, “Here’s an organization that’s been doing great work, but they have very little visibility in the community, so I can help make a difference.”
A New Vision
As Executive Director, Robb Martin says his goal is three-fold, one being to build up the Chaplaincy.
“We’d love to have more chaplains going into the jails and ministering to more people, because that’s what makes an effective ministry and that’s what we’re about,” Martin said.
Assisting people as they come out of jail is also key.
“When you’re up for parole you have to have a job. It’s real hard to go to an interview when you’re behind bars, so it’s kind of a catch 22. Fortunately I’m also incoming President of the Akron Area Society for Human Resources Management so we have 450 HR managers that belong to our group. I’m also in touch with the Summit County Re-Entry Network,” he said.
“We’re really hoping that between that and the Akron Bar Association we can form a good coalition of efforts that will help some of these people whose lives have been changed while they’re in prison,” he continued.
Getting inmates who’ve been working with The Way Out connected to those open to hiring ex-offenders is key in this process.
“If 10 companies will say ‘We will target 2 or 3 jobs a year for people who are coming out of this situation’ with the agreement from the Chaplains that these people have really gone through the conversion that they need,” Martin said, it would begin a movement for change in prison ministry.
The missing link in prison ministry has seemed to be follow-up and aftercare upon release. In order for men and women not to re-offend they need opportunities and a second chance to rebuild their lives, otherwise they will continue falling into the same old patterns and behaviors that landed them in jail/prison.
“I think that would be a great program. It’s all a part of the holistic issue of helping them change their lives while in prison. But we know that if we don’t help them change their lives when they come out of prison, our chances of success are reduced,” Martin explained.
Lives Transformed While in Prison
Three testimonies from former inmates who are now successfully integrated back into society thanks to The Way Out were given at the banquet in April. And stories like this continue to be made.
Bill Wilder, Director of Ministry, is going to take one man who spent 16 years as an inmate in the Lorain County Prison back to speak to the other men there.
“He is now successfully integrated (back into society) and is going back into the prison with Bill to minister to these inmates,” Martin said with excitement.
Wilder continually pours his life into these men.
“If the Chaplain’s been working with them they know their character and that’s the beauty of what The Way Out does. These chaplains form relationships,” Martin continued.
Be the Change
You too, can make a difference in the lives of broken men and women.
The Way Out realizes the importance of community and that they cannot do this on their own. They open their doors to volunteers, who are always needed to do Bible studies and to go into the jails to help with chapel services and worship.
“This is a local mission ministry that they could take on that could be vibrant and exciting. We would like to find churches that would take this on as a ministry and to mentor the inmates after they get released,” Martin explained.
Their ideal vision would be for the church to ‘adopt’ an inmate as they are released and help them walk through and support them in their transition from jail/prison back into society.
“If you’ve come out you have to go through trying to find your identity, not just socially but officially. They take your social security card, so you come out and you’ve got all of this to put together,” Martin explained.
“It takes a unique set of timing for successful re-entry as they’re released. They’ve served their time, especially if they’ve had a spiritual renewal during that time and have come to the conversion point. This is exciting and a church could walk them through the process,” Martin said.
Coming Full Circle
“We would love if churches are open to let us come in on a Sunday and have a guest speaker. I’d be happy to go and speak and share and I’ll put a 10 minute segment at the end,” Martin said.
“I think once they see the vision they will be up to supporting us more. If we could find 50 churches who have never supported us to give us 10 dollars a month, that would make a huge difference. We could give all our energy to the ministry and not to making ends meet,” he continued.
The Way Out will offer training, providing a successful model as to how to integrate one back into society. They have government sources, sources from the Akron Area Society of Human Resources Management and more to help with the process.
“We’d also love to get a list of people who own rentals who would be open to giving, and with a Chaplain’s recommendation would be favorable towards letting an inmate rent,” Martin said.
“The same things you and I take for granted every day, the person coming out (doesn’t have),” he continued.
If you are interested in finding out more about this ministry please call 234.855.6826, or you can write them at: P.O. Box 784, Uniontown, OH 44685