Serving Those in Prison

Nov 19, 2021 | Service Stories, Summit Magazine

“‘…For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothes you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Matthew 25:35–39

Some in society can be viewed as “less than” others—those who are imprisoned, hungry, strangers. Yet, these fellow humans are loved by our Creator and in need of someone to care for them. Clarks Summit University alumni step out to serve in countless numbers of ways and locations. The following stories tell how God is working through alumni to reach those who are hurting and in need of Christ’s love.

SERVING THOSE IN PRISON

By Taylor Stuck (’21)

“Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’”

This is the good news that Baptist Bible Seminary student Aaron Reitz shares with the inmates at SCI Rockview Correction Center. He says, “we have guys here that…recognize their guilt and need for Christ more acutely than most. There is a type of liberation experienced in Jesus that is reminiscent of the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet in Luke 7.”

Reitz is pursuing his Doctor of Philosophy with a concentration in Old Testament Studies at BBS. He resides in Mill Hall, Pennsylvania, with Lisa (his wife of 19 years) and their three kids, Seth, Kaleb and Sophia. Reitz started ministering at SCI Rockview in 2015, as the primary pastor for the Protestant Christians at Rockview.

In the unique setting at the Correction Center where inmates are separated from their families and other obligations that typically fill their schedules, they have more time to read Scripture and practice other spiritual disciplines. In fact, Reitz says, “some of the most Bible-literate men that I have ever met are right here in Rockview.”

Along with Reitz, a team of chaplains from other faith backgrounds minister to the inmates: a Catholic Deacon, Islamic Imam, Catholic Priest, Spanish speaking Protestant and Native American. Reitz and the other chaplains visit housing units and men admitted into the infirmary. Over the past few years, Reitz and the other Rockview chaplains have invested heavily in personal discipleship and education.

Reitz is constantly seeing individuals cycling in and out of the center and encountering Jesus. As each one leaves and returns to life outside the center, Reitz hopes that they will take this transformation home to their communities and beyond.

Despite the blessings Reitz experiences ministering at Rockview, he cautions that anyone aspiring to prison ministry needs to be prepared to get their hands dirty. Reitz wades through clouds of profanity every day to get to his office. Individuals have thrown feces during a service, and he has seen worse just walking past cells during his rounds.

As Reitz digs deeper into his studies in the Old Testament, he is finding more ways to connect with those who can be difficult to reach. He says, “I am constantly being challenged by new ideas that I encounter in study and the level of production required in the program. I often get the feeling that the Lord is showing me that I can manage more than I would have imagined, and that this element, along with the content, is preparatory for new challenges down the road. 

Reitz values his privilege to serve the inmates at Rockview. As he draws close to these individuals that Jesus would surely have gravitated towards, he recognizes the powerful celebration of redemption that unites Christians from all backgrounds. He says, “the participation in our worship is fairly evenly split between African-American and white inmates, so there is a real Kingdom of God diversity that brings with it a brotherhood and celebratory aspect that is not present in many other contexts. It is both an honor and humbling to minister to these men.”

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