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Prison revival reaches beyond the fence

Spiritual awakening is taking place at a prison in Adrian, Mich., where chapel services are vibrant, and the inmates carry a burden for lost people inside and outside the prison.

In a corner of the prison compound is a chapel that serves the Gus Harrison Regional Facility and the Adrian Temporary Facility, which sit side by side. On Sunday mornings, 160 men from ATF gather for a 50-minute service.

Layman Jim Yeutter of Bethany Assembly of God in Adrian (Richard Clay, pastor) began ministry at the twin facilities in July 1996. He says hunger for God has been there from the start.

"[When I first came], the Holy Spirit was there and you could sense it in their worship time," he says. "The level of praise and worship would rise to the level I experienced in my own church. The guys were pressing in and inviting the Holy Spirit there, knowing that without Him the rest of the service wouldn’t be effective. We have to press in quickly to leave time for the Word. Week by week, the level kept increasing. I started hearing them talk about how they felt God was going to use them to bring revival to this city. They felt, and I did too, that it would start in the prison. They look out the windows of the chapel, and the wires are there; but, they don’t see them because they’re free by the blood of Jesus. They feel bad for the people they see drive by who don’t know Him."

Services include Communion, water baptisms and ministry by a 20-voice choir. Yeutter says the gifts of the Spirit operate often.

"It’s not uncommon for guys to come up and give me a prophetic word about things in my life they wouldn’t otherwise know," he says. "They are hungry for more of what God has. … At [some services] we’ve had tongues and interpretation, which some of the guys had no clue about. I see the Holy Spirit moving, building a remnant of guys who are on fire."

One prison minister tried to drum up interest for a Bible study series on the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Bemused by the lack of interest, he finally learned that most of the guys there were already baptized in the Holy Spirit, Yeutter says.

"What I see happening here I’ve never seen anywhere," says Wayne Zirzow, prison chaplain at ATF, who has been in prison chaplaincy work as a volunteer and professional for 32 years. "The enthusiasm for the gospel is unbelievable. The Holy Spirit is at work."

With such limited service times (a Sunday morning service and a Friday night Bible study), inmates must make the most of their opportunities to minister. Rules forbid them from gathering in groups of greater than five in the prison yard; so to practice during the week, choir members stand in small groups a little ways apart and sing.

Recently, the inmates decided to help provide for families on the outside. Through a volunteer they found several needy families; and, though the inmates make only $10 a month, they gave almost $800 away.

"They gave sacrificially," Yeutter says. "They gave weekly reports; and, the more the amount rose, the more excited they got. Even unbelievers got involved. … [The guys] feel they are setting the pace and that God has something planned. We’ve got something inside here that’s not going to be held in by the wires. It’s going to break out. They carry a burden for those on the outside who don’t know Him."

One ATF inmate wrote in a letter to the Evangel, "We’ve adopted Isaiah 58:10 as our example: ‘Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out of the darkness, and the darkness around you will be bright as day.’ "

— Joel Kilpatrick


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