Jail Ministry Banquet to raise funds

PAM GRIFFIN 315-4491 | @DestinLogPam
Chaplain John Lennon

Ministry programs at the Okaloosa County Jail include weekly worship services, discipleship/Bible study classes, one-on-one counseling, and participation in a Bible correspondence course. Chaplain John Lennon conducts many of these activities, but he also directs a large number of volunteers, pastors and laymen/women, who come to the jail throughout the week to conduct these activities.

The Good News Jail & Prison Ministry Annual Fund Raising Banquet will be held at 6 p.m. April 14 at the Crosspoint United Methodist Church Community Life Center, 214 S. Partin Drive in Niceville. Inspirational music, life transforming testimonies from former inmates and a ministry update from Lennon are on the schedule.

The chaplain's ministry and programs take the Good News to inmates and is funded only by contributions from county churches, businesses and individuals. For tickets and information on how you or your church can sponsor a table at the banquet to keep the chaplain "behind the bars," contact Chuck Turk at 850-678-5827 or Chaplain John Lennon at 850-974-0301.

The ministry provides spiritually mature, equipped, and motivated men and women to serve as Christian chaplains in correctional facilities nationally and internationally. Each chaplain is a faith missionary who must raise and sustain his or her own financial support for the ministry.

Turk, a volunteer with the organization and chairman of the annual banquet, also helps coordinate the Bible Correspondence Course for 50 inmates. He told The Log that more than 7,000 inmates pass through the walls of the jail in a year, and it is the main goal of the ministry to get inmates connected or reconnected to their faith and a local church after their release.

"Christians, motivated by the love of Christ, have been coming into the Okaloosa County Jail as volunteers for some 50 years," Turk said. "Much has changed over those 50 years, with more volunteers and many more inmates. The current inmate population is 550."

When the County Department of Correction recognized the need to have someone function in a full-time capacity as chaplain, a request came from Director Larry Caskey for Good News to provide a full time chaplain. In the summer of 2000, Good News Jail & Prison Ministry installed Jack Jones.

"Chaplain Jack’s calm faithful service won the respect and trust of the officers, administration and staff," said Turk. "Due to failing health, Jack requested retirement for medical reasons in July of 2003, and Chaplain John joined the already well-established ministry in October 2003."

Lennon had previously served with Good News Jail & Prison Ministry for 12 years in two other jails — Brevard County, Florida, and Kings County, California. He organized and developed ministry in both of these jails, identifying and recruiting qualified men and women to meet the needs of the ministry behind bars.