Prison ministry restoring at-risk women ‘back to life’

With hands held high, a group of more than 300 women sing praise songs as they worship together. There are plenty of tears, hugs and smiles during this time away from their daily routine. But it isn’t your typical women’s retreat or gathering at a local church — it’s being held inside the walls of a prison.

Courage For Life, a Georgia-based ministry that focuses on equipping people to apply God’s word to their lives, works with chaplains and other ministry partners to serve in prisons in Georgia, Missouri and Florida.

Under the leadership of the ministry’s founder and executive director, Ann White, Courage For Life is helping at-risk women access audio Bibles and attend classes focused on teaching how a deeper understanding of Scripture can transform their lives.

Nearly a quarter-of-a-million women and girls are incarcerated in the United States, according to The Sentencing Project, a nonprofit that advocates for fairness in the criminal justice system.

“This is a mission field,” said White, a nationally known speaker and contributor to Focus on the Family, during one of the ministry’s visits to the Chillicothe Correctional Center in Missouri.

“These women are (spiritually) hungry,” she said. “[They] are desperate for the love of Christ. They’re desperate to know that somebody cares. They’re desperate for hope … hope changes everything.”

Courage For Life has released an app featuring the entire Bible narrated by women. In March, the ministry announced efforts to translate the entire Bible into Spanish in the New Living Translation.

The Spanish version, which also is to be narrated by women, is scheduled for release in the fall.

In a place where illiteracy can bring intimidation and shame, imprisoned women are able to listen to the Bible through tablet computers provided by donations.

The female voice, White noted, is an important part of the outreach among at-risk women who have experienced abuse.

“One thing in working with at-risk women, it’s important to use gender-specific treatment,” White said in a news release. “You don’t put a woman who may have been traumatized by a man with a male counselor or a male-voiced program.”

Kathy Urbanick, ministry director for Courage For Life, said in an interview with TAB Media that male prisoners have also responded well to the women-narrated Bible.

“We were overwhelmed by that,” she said, noting many of those imprisoned men have been abandoned by the men in their lives or experienced abuse by other males.

Bible study courses

Working with the ministry, volunteer prison chaplains also have seen lives change through “Courage For My Life” Bible study courses for class sizes of about 20 women. The training focuses on teaching how to personally apply the Bible.

“We have been overwhelmed by the reception for the Courage For My Life class,” Urbanick noted. “They create a safe environment. And for the first time, these women can feel like they can step out of isolation.”

To learn more about Courage For Life, visit courageforlife.org. To download the audio Bible, look for Courage for Life Bible in your favorite app store.

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