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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

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Inmate’s Plea for Church Services Elicits Response

Matthew Maher knows what it’s like to be broken and now shares the good news of redemption and God’s grace.  

By Rachel Rogish

CLARIFICATION: Cape Hope is a board-led organization.

CREST HAVEN – The Herald May 12 published a letter written by Herman Hansen (https://bit.ly/3jBYdBG), who was an inmate at the Cape May County Correctional Facility crying out for spiritual help. He has since been released. 

“I am currently in the Cape May County jail and have been for six months, all of which there has been no church or Bible study,” Hansen wrote.  

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all in-person Bible studies/services were suspended at the jail, according to Hansen.  

However, his letter also indicated that county officials approved resuming virtual Bible studies and other religious activities.  

Antwan McClellan, personnel director with the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed the jail’s plan to allow video services again.  

The jail will make necessary adjustments and updates to its system, McClellan added.  

Faith Matters was unable to contact Hansen after his release, but sought to see if anyone is answering his plea for churches to come and minister.  

Pen Pals Behind Bars  

The first to respond was Matthew Maher, teaching pastor at Coastal Christian Church, in Ocean City.  

Maher, an ex-convict, knows what it means to be broken and seeking light. His story is one of God’s redemption and rescue from sin. Maher shares his story on various media platforms and in person.  

“My story transcends buildings,” Maher said June 23, in a Zoom interview. 

On the day he was contacted, Maher said he received a letter from an inmate at the jail.  

“This is not an accident,” Maher said, referring to the letter.  

Moved by Hansen’s request, Maher said he would look into having Coastal Christian’s services livestreamed in the jail. Coastal Christian does not currently have a prison ministry.  

In addition to his blog, Maher also corresponds with several inmates in Cape May and Atlantic counties.  

“It’s a very grass-roots ministry,” Maher explained.  

“There’s a God who has a plan. There is hope. You’re not forgotten,” Maher said, sending a message of hope for the “Hermans” of the county.  

A Virtual Future  

“I have had in-person conversations with (Cape May County) Sheriff Bob Nolan, and he supports spiritual guidance for the inmates,” wrote Christopher South, in a July 2 email. South and his wife, Denise, lead Cape Hope, which advocates for the homeless.  

Together, the Souths also minister to county inmates (https://bit.ly/2UoEivG).  

According to South, administrative challenges have prevented him from resuming prison ministry. However, South has completed a chaplaincy course, equipping him with more tools to reach others.  

The Souths are active attendees at Revolve Church, which participates in a program designed to help released inmates reenter society, said South.  

“We have always been willing to step up and help, but, again, Covid put everything on hold,” he clarified.  

South said jail officials confirmed that virtual services will begin in September.  

“Everyone would like to hear God speak, but they don’t consider that He has already spoken to us through His word. Fundamentally, it is up to each of us to seek God. I would encourage them (inmates) to get a Bible and read the Gospels and get to know Jesus,” South concluded.  

Image of Grace 

Another virtual program, the Imago Die event, will also be livestreamed in the jail. Hosted by Fusion Church, in Somers Point, Danielle Wilson desires to reach female inmates. She wants women to remember that they are made in God’s image and that He loves them.  

Wilson’s husband, Brendon, is the lead pastor at Fusion.  

She’s excited to resume ministering to women through technology.  

Imago Die also provides support and interaction for women when they are released from jail.  

Faith Matters is an ongoing series exploring the connection between individuals and their faith, impacting their families, community, and beyond. Those with a story of faith to share shouldcontactthewriteratrrogish@cmcherald.com.    

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