A Ministry of Healing and Restoration

Our prisons and jails are overcrowded.  In fact, the United States has the highest number of people in prison per capita than any other country in the world.  The current prison crises has led to overcrowded facilities and limited resources to prepare those incarcerated for release.  Ninety-five (95%) of those presently incarcerated will eventually be returning to our communities.
State governments are feeling the pressure of the rising cost of incarceration (in some states over $20,000 per inmate per year) and consequently, more and more people in prison are being released. They will face enormous obstacles:  lack of employment; the stigma of incarceration; access to safe and affordable housing;  the reunification of their families;  the need to be involved in recovery programs and on and on.  Perhaps the greatest challenge facing returning challenges is rejection, alienation and isolation. How do we respond as Christians? What is the role of our faith communities?  What do we need to know to be equipped to minister to those who have been living on the margins of society?  And if the church does not respond, who will?  These are questions being asked and answered by many churches across the country as they respond in faith.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has become more and involved in prison ministry over the last several years.  Three prison congregations have been formed: two in Kentucky and one in Utah, meeting people behind the bars.   A cutting edge re-entry program has also been established in Kentucky.  Mission Behind Bars and Beyond trains lay people to form small Nurture, Support and Accountability Groups to work with returning citizens.   More programs need to be developed to provide spiritual and emotional support to returning citizens and their families.  Our congregations need to be educated so that stereotypes, prejudices and predispositions can be overcome and dispelled.
The church stands in a  unique place to be a welcoming community where healing and restoration can occur.  But our churches also need to be well equipped to serve a population of people who are broken and struggling to reconstruct their lives.   This is what our Lord and Savior called us to do.  We are called together and called to care.
The NBA is working with Luther Luckett Christian Church and Mission Behind Bars and Beyond along with other Disciples ministries focused on the care and wellness of the incarcerated and their families. To learn more, please email David Lundeen, NBA Vice President of Mission and Ministry call (314) 993-9000 ext. 1518.
Rev. Dean Bucalos is the Program Coordinator for Mission Behind Bars and Beyond, a ministry in Kentucky equipped to welcome, support, and nurture every ex-offender to re-enter society as healthy and productive citizens. Rev. Bucalos also serves as the part-time pastor of Luther Luckett Christian Church, a prison congregation within the walls of the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex in LaGrange, Kentucky.