Tom Deede began a prison ministry in Rugby, North Dakota, but when a couple of men Deede had studied with were transferred to Lake Region Correctional Center in Devils Lake, North Dakota, they requested Bible studies be held there also. This caused a prison ministry to be started in Devils Lake as well.
Deede asked if any fellow church members would be willing to take on the prison ministry in Devils Lake, and Randi and Pam Suckut, Eric and Sarah Christianson, and Brian and Kathy Tebelius accepted the responsibility.
After background checks and training were complete, studies began on Saturday evenings. Eric and Sarah initially led out, but as time progressed the leadership of the Bible studies passed to Randi, Pam, Brian and Kathy.
“We are allowed into the jail around 6:30 pm until 9 to 10:30 pm, depending on how many inmates want to meet,” says Randi Suckut. “Because Devils Lake does not allow intermingling of inmates from different units into one group study, we do studies with up to three or four units every Saturday night.”
Because the inmates are at the jail for one week to four months, the studies are not in depth. They consist of reading and discussing a chapter in the Bible or studying a parable Jesus taught.
“Some of the men and women know the Bible well and some don’t know it at all,” explains Suckut. “We also give Bibles to those who request them, and Bible studies are used from Amazing Facts, Native Day Studies, and Discover lessons. Steps to Christ, Desire of Ages, booklets of encouragement, bookmarks, and Christian adult coloring pages are also distributed to those wanting them.”
Beyond the walls
At the end of each Bible study, the men and women are given a piece of paper to write prayer requests. The requests are consolidated and passed to members of the Manfred and Bowdon Country churches. The members are asked to keep these men and women and their requests in prayer. Some of the church members even send cards of encouragement to the inmates.
“We have experienced the Holy Spirit working in this ministry, as inmates have told us that the messages presented were just what they needed to hear,” says Suckut. “We’ve also received letters and cards stating how much the studies and letters are appreciated.”
One inmate wrote, “I was just writing to once again thank everyone involved with coming to the LEC and volunteering their time and energy with helping everyone. I know that the others and I greatly appreciate it and look forward to our church group every Saturday. You help give hope and determination to us, and help us strive to better our lives. I’ll keep you all in my prayers.”
Suckut says that with this ministry, they hope to be planting seeds and letting the Holy Spirit water and nourish so there can be a harvest.
Members of the Manfred Church continue to lead Bible studies on Thursday evenings in Rugby as well. Tom Deede and Randi Suckut also plan to facilitate the start of a Bible study at the Bismarck Penitentiary. This request came from one of the inmates who studied with Deede in Rugby. “We know there is a prison ministry in Jamestown and possibly other places throughout the Dakotas,” adds Suckut.