The truths found in Genesis are essential for effective prison ministry, says somebody who should know. Tim O’Dell, who oversees chaplains and programs for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), has found that apologetics—showing how the Bible can be trusted to answer life’s deepest questions—is a way of life for successful prison chaplains. When you start talking to inmates about anything the Bible claims, they are quick to question its authority.
One regular topic is “race.” Because divisions based on skin color are very pronounced in prisons, O’Dell must regularly show from Genesis that there is only one human race, descended from Adam through Noah. This truth helps break down these “racial” barriers. Conflicts are such a regular part of prison life that new believers must quickly learn how to bridge these barriers, especially with other Christians, if they hope to display the gospel’s truly life-changing power in the prison yard.
For new Christians to throw off biases based on race, they must learn wholesome truths from God’s Word, beginning with the basics. Many do not place much value on human life, especially the life of someone from a different “race.” Our culture’s evolutionary teaching reinforces this wrong thinking. O’Dell shows inmates that man was created brilliant and perfect, in the image of God. God values human life, and so should we.
This emphasis completely changes prisoners’ mindset. One prisoner in Mississippi wrote that Genesis’s “one race” message helped liberate him from the mentality of the Ku Klux Klan. Today his best friend and mentor is a man he would have hated years ago, just for the color of his skin. Only Jesus Christ can work this kind of change, freeing sinners to serve Him with joy, even behind prison bars. Truly, He does “exceedingly abundantly, above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).