International (MNN) — When we neglect to share the Gospel with certain groups of people, we’re affirming an ancient and devastating lie that some sins are too great for God to forgive. But Set Free Ministries is working to dispel that lie for a group of people considered society’s “worst of the worst”.
For a few years now, Set Free Ministries has been ministering in prisons in West Michigan and abroad. It began when Reverend Zuala began reaching out to the prisoners in Mezoram, India. The recidivism and suicide rates went down drastically after just a couple years. You can read more on that story here.
Set Free Ministries states their mission this way — that they exist to “make disciples of Jesus Christ through biblical counseling, training, and social action. In doing so, [they] equip individuals and churches to bring God’s healing and wholeness to hurting people worldwide.”
Nobody denies our world is full of hurting people. However, very few realize a lot of these issues begin in the heart. Instead, we tend to attack human pain at a rational, tangible level. And in missing the real issue, people are left feeling hopeless and frustrated as they search for an answer.
The most common example Set Free Ministries encounters is the struggle to forgive. It’s been the root cause of addiction, depression, and more. And yet, they’ve seen these people find freedom from their struggles as they begin to embrace the truth of God’s Word. But the key is, the person has to admit there’s a struggle and that they need help.
“You first have to be a captive to be set free,” Dean Vander Mey of Set Free Ministries says.
Pete Noor of Set Free says this is why prison ministry is a natural fit for Set Free. These people are well aware there’s a problem.
“The beauty of working with inmates is often times they don’t try to hide anything. They’re open and they’re very honest and humility is a huge part of the healing process,” Noor explains.
Workers at Set Free have been helping these people realize it’s not the physical prison they need freeing from, but the spiritual captivity of their heart.
Vander Mey says, “If you look at what’s going on in prison, in prison these are just men and women who are broken in their relationships. They’re usually very angry. They usually have some addiction issues, and they don’t know where to turn. Well, that’s the best place to meet them.”
Forgiveness sets the prisoners free
At one prison, Set Free Ministries is working in conjunction with Forgotten Man Ministries to share the Gospel with inmates and teach them from God’s Word in groups called “God Pods.”
Just a couple weeks ago, Vander Mey was able to reveal a lie that many of the prisoners he was talking to believed.
He says, “I was in a God Pod that had 90 percent child molesters and predators — 90 percent of the guys. So I asked the question, ‘Do you men in this room believe you have committed crimes that are so heinous that God can’t forgive you? Raise your hand if you think that’s true.’ Ninety-five percent of the men raised their hand — that they had committed a crime that God can’t forgive.”
There are few people more despised than sex criminals. It’s not hard to see why very few Christians reach out and minister to these people. They are considered beyond hope. But God tells us they are not.
Vander Mey shared with them the story of King David and Bathsheba. In this account, David lusts, commits adultery, murders, and lies. After this, Vander Mey read them Psalm 51 — David’s famous Psalm of repentance.
Many of the men were hearing for the first time that God is big enough to forgive even them if they repented. Many of them broke down in tears of joy.
“Those are the worst of the worst in our prison systems; or at least, they believe that. And God’s grace, it says ‘where sin abounds, my grace abounds all the more.’ We just have to let them know, they’re captives.”
Vander Mey says in many of their broken stories, the root problem is their lack of forgiveness. Many of them, he explains, were abused themselves. But those who accept Jesus’ offer of forgiveness are enabled to forgive those who’ve wronged them.
Something that has been groundbreaking for these inmates is to learn God is actually pursuing them — that He hasn’t given up. Vander Mey says even the fact that they are in prison is God’s mercy — to get their attention, to slow them down, to give them a chance to respond to Him.
“They’ve never heard anything like that before. Most of them have broken relationships with their fathers. And when they know that God the Father is pursuing them and trying to get their attention, they are very, very alert.”
For Noor and Vander Mey, this ministry is part of God’s commission to make disciples of all nations.
If you would like to learn how to get involved, contact Set Free at (616) 726-5400, or visit them online here.