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Prison ministry depends on dedicated volunteers
By Mike Evans, Western Youth Institution

MORGANTON, Feb. 8 -- Eddie is 17. He has 15 years in prison to serve. His family rarely writes. He receives fewer visits from them than he does letters. Being a teenager is tough. It is tougher if you are serving time in a state prison as an adult.

Undoubtedly, some would say Eddie deserves anything he gets. "Lock him up and throw away the key," is a slogan often heard when discussing prisons and justice. There is only one flaw with that. Eddie is going to get out of prison one day. But will he have the everyday skills and the hope of the soul it takes to make it or will he give up and revert to his old ways?

Volunteers are some of the most valuable resources prisons and society have in reclaiming the lives of offenders. Western Youth Religious Services has over 200 volunteers helping teenage offenders be reclaimed.

Worship Service
A worship service conducted by Epiphany Ministries at Western Youth Institution.

Many of those are part of Epiphany Ministries of North Carolina, Inc, a unique prison ministry. At Western Youth Institution, Epiphany Ministries provides a chance to become part of a Christian community. Each inmate that enrolls and is accepted into the program begins the program with a three-day weekend retreat. These retreats are held at the prison in the gym and chapel. The weekend is devoted to worship, fellowship and growth. After the weekend, Epiphany Ministries will follow up on all those in the program twice a month. They will do this for as long as the inmate is in the North Carolina Department of Correction. Inmates involved in the program may have as little as 30 day to multiple life terms.

Musical group performs at weekend retreat
Epiphany's music team teaches inmates many new praise songs that will be remembered long after the weekend retreat  is over.
Epiphany Ministries has completed three years of ministry at Western Youth Institution where it was first implemented. Now Epiphany has programs in place at all youth facilities in North Carolina. Epiphany accepts contributions from private individuals, so the state spends no money on these programs. Inmates enroll voluntarily. This is an interdenominational, ecumenical venture on the part of churches. Opportunities are given for the media to come and observe these events upon arrangement at Western Youth Institution.

Western Youth Institution provides opportunities for several religious faith groups according to state and federal law.

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