Sharing the Love of Jesus Behind Bars – Part 2Written by admin on Jul 14, 2020 in - No Comments
Sharing the Love of Jesus Behind Bars
A conversation with Josh Riggs, Part II
Josh Riggs grew up in San Antonio Texas, and now lives with his wife and two children, ages 12 and 15, in Huntington, Vermont. When he became a follower of Jesus, Josh found himself praying for the inmates of the women’s prison in South Burlington every time he drove past. Fast forward a few years, and he has moved on from his career in window and door sales to serve as a minister with Church at Prison. In this two-part conversation, Josh shares a glimpse into the lives of the incarcerated, paints a pictures of what church looks like in prison, and shares how we can be praying for Vermont inmates. You can read Part I of this conversation here.
Church at the Well: In Part I of our conversation, you painted a picture of what gathering for worship looks like in prison. Could you also give us a picture of the aftercare that Church at Prison provides when inmates are released?
Josh Riggs: Working with ex-offenders when they get out of prison is very important to me. When they get out, every ex-offender experiences a scary world of rejection. Church at Prison is committed to helping them transition back into society by providing basic needs such as housing, clothing, and food, as well as medical and counselling needs. If there is anything we can do to ease the transition for someone, we do it to the best of our ability. I have spent an entire day with someone just so they would not be tempted to smoke crack. It’s a ministry of presence.
Church at the Well: What about employment?
Josh Riggs: The founder of our church, Pastor Pete Fiske, started New Life Crew (NLC), a contracting business that offers roofing and painting services as well as general carpentry. The starting wage is a livable wage, $15/hour. However, an employee can earn much more if they have skills and a good work ethic. The best part of the business model is that NLC will not hire you unless you have a criminal record! This gives many of our clients a job right out of prison. Those with very few work skills can apprentice, and with their training, move on to other jobs. One of the best ways to keep someone from going back to jail is by giving them a steady job.
Church at the Well: Has anything surprised you since you started ministering in prison?
Josh Riggs: What has surprised me from the beginning is how damaging the effects of drug addiction are to a person and a community as a whole. Clients will get clean in jail and be hungry for Jesus. It seems like nothing could ever take them back to their old ways again. But as soon as they get out, they go back to their towns and cities, where the same substances are just waiting for them, and the same people who supplied them, too. The only time I see recidivism is with drug addicts. The enemy seeks to steal, kill and destroy, and his biggest weapons on the streets are crack cocaine and heroin.
Church at the Well: What has brought you joy in your work with Vermont inmates?
Josh Riggs: I love to shower inmates with deep unconditional love, and I love to listen to their life stories. I want them to share with me the good, the bad, and the ugly, so I know where to pray blessings into their life. I have had the opportunity to baptize several men in prison. To see someone receive Jesus into their hearts authentically, and then to watch as they grow in the Holy Spirit, is absolutely glorious! Their whole life changes direction into the heart of God’s love.
Church at the Well: How has the coronavirus changed life in prison?
Josh Riggs: Currently, COVID-19 is our biggest challenge. The residents have been in lockdown, unable to leave their cells for anything. They have no programs to go to, and they have no church services, Bible studies, or pastoral counselling opportunities. My heart is so heavy because these circumstances cause long-term psychological trauma.
Church at the Well: How can we be praying for Vermont inmates?
Josh Riggs: Pray for God to raise up ministers of the gospel to spread the love of Christ in these facilities. Pray for the safety and peace of DOC correctional officers. Pray for Church at Prison to be able to re-enter the facilities in a safe way as soon as possible. Pray for prisons to change from holding tanks to places of restoration, redemption, recovery, and education. Pray also for those who are sent out of state to Mississippi to return to Vermont to serve the rest of their sentences close to family and community.
Church at the Well: Is there anything else you’d like folks reading this conversation to know about our brothers and sisters behind bars?
Josh Riggs: If you know someone who is in prison or has a loved one in prison, make an effort to visit or write a letter to them. There is nothing more anguishing than feeling forgotten by the people you love while you are in jail. And there is nothing more life-giving for someone in jail than hearing that you are loved and not forgotten.
Josh Riggs can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.