Know the Truth Prison Ministry meeting a need in Arkansas

by Peggy Gardner Kemp

The statistics are staggering. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice, 2,266,800 adults were incarcerated in U.S. federal and state prisons and county jails at year-end 2010. Additionally, 4,933,667 adults at year-end 2009 were on probation or on parole. In total, 7,225,800 adults were under correctional supervision (probation, parole, jail or prison) in 2009.

Where others saw numbers and statistics, Eddie and Joy Kelso of Greenbrier saw the faces behind those numbers. They saw not just the faces of inmates, but also the faces of the families impacted by incarceration, and knew they had to do something to help those inmates and their families.

According to the Kelsos, statistics show that if not reached with the Gospel within three years of being released from prison, 68 percent of former inmates will be arrested again, and 51.8 percent will be back in prison.

“However, if an inmate is saved in prison and goes through a mentor program, only 17 percent will be arrested again and only 8 percent will be incarcerated again,” the Kelsos said.

After being a part of a Texas prison ministry and seeing the positive influence a faith-based program had in the lives of inmates, Eddie saw the need for a similar ministry in Arkansas. He and Joy took steps to receive training in Texas to begin that ministry.

“Eddie and I knew that God had called us into prison ministry, and so we decided to start Know the Truth Prison Ministry in Arkansas,” Joy said.

Since its onset, they believe that God has opened many doors for them.

“It is very hard getting into the prison ministry,” the Kelsos said. “You have to be invited into a prison by a chaplain.”

In 2011, the Kelsos were invited to attend a chaplains’ conference, where the contacts they made have allowed them to have regular services in eight Arkansas prisons. They also hold services in prisons in Texas, Louisiana and Missouri, and hope to soon have services in Mississippi.

During those services, Eddie preaches and, along with Joy, presents a music program.

Last fall, Eddie became a certified religious assistant at Varner Prison. He goes there every week to assist the chaplains and to teach in the Principles and Applications for Life Program. This program provides worship services, religious materials and counseling services to inmates.

As a faith-based ministry, the Kelsos depend on donations to fund their program. They travel to various churches, where they explain their program and receive offerings to meet their needs.

“God has met every single need we have had,” the Kelsos said. “There are so many families impacted by a loved one or friend in prison. Prison ministry not only reaches an inmate with the gospel, but can have an impact on our society.”

For more information about the Know the Truth Prison Ministry, contact Eddie at 501.472.9253, Joy at 501.472.9254 or email [email protected].