Part 10 in our "12 Days of Christmas" series
KINGSTON, Tenn. (Jan. 3, 2014) – On Dec. 6, twelve members and friends of Bradbury United Methodist Church provided Christmas worship and a meal for 120 offenders and officials at Bledsoe County Correctional Complex in Pikeville, Tenn.
This is the 24th year Bradbury has provided a Christmas program at the prison, which has a capacity for more than 2,000 offenders. Other churches came on other nights so that more could be blessed at Christmas.
During Bradbury’s visit, the Christmas story was told with interludes of music. Homemade meals consisting of a sandwich, cookies, snacks, and fresh fruit were served. As they returned to their units, each man received a bag of candy and a gift bag with socks, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, a pen, paper, razor, Christmas cards, a comb and handkerchief.
Two church members and the pastor returned to the prison on Dec. 13 as part of the routine Kairos Prison Ministry monthly meetings.
Here are a few comments made to the pastor from the participants in the Christmas gathering:
"I can't believe you guys took the time to be with us. I know God loves me with food and worship like this.”
“I have two kids. (Crying) Will you tell your grandkids thanks for letting you be with us tonight? I will write my kids a Christmas letter tonight."
"I remember you, Reverend. You stepped past the mic last year, just like tonight, and just talked with us like men. That means so much. Don't take this wrong, but you had to serve a black church like where I was raised, sometime, to learn to throw your voice like that."
"Really, don't you really have any place better to be than here? ... It's been a while since I felt like I was worth anything. With all this from folks I never met, it must be so.”
And this from Dale Hensley, a Bradbury member who has witnessed and joined in this extraordinary love for many years: “Each time we do this we receive such a blessing. The men are so grateful for what the church has done for them. This year a clock was made for us, which is now on our communion table at the church. Men doing time, making time for us!”
The Rev. Stephen Burkhart is pastor at Bradbury United Methodist Church and Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, both of the Oak Ridge District.
12 Days of Christmas: Extraordinary love in Holston12/25/2014
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