Prison ministry shares message of Jesus
CHAMPION — Members of the Greater Warren Evangelical Ministers Fellowship say that 37 years ago, God planted in their hearts a vision for carrying the “Great Commission” to young people detained in the Trumbull County Juvenile Justice Center.
That resulting His Hands Extended Ministry continues today. Members of local churches take turns going to the JJC, the Trumbull County Jail and the Trumbull Correctional Institution to share the Gospel message with those who are incarcerated.
The Christ-centered prison ministry, which began in 1982 and was officially incorporated in 1992, recently held a stewardship and appreciation banquet at DiLucia’s Restaurant, and featured testimonies of those helped by the ministry and those volunteering as chaplains.
Pastor Ray Cowie of Lordstown and Newton Falls First Church of God, said the organization is independent and not attached to any church although there are participants from local churches.
Rob DelVecchio of Howland is a chaplain at the JJC and Tom Gabrovsek of Vienna is a chaplain at the Trumbull County Jail. Cowie, who serves as administrator of the group, said there are other several chaplains involved. He oversees 17 people involved with the program.
“Everyone we have on staff is ordained as a minister or chaplain,” he said.
DelVecchio said for the past 25 years, he has coordinated the local churches that take part.
“This is a Bible-based ministry. We give them insight and wisdom on a different life than the one they have been living. Many people we speak to are products of their environment. They come in broken and during the time we are with them, we hope to redirect them,” he said.
Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, Cowie said, the group collects food to create a full-course meal to take to the detainees and jail staff. He said funds raised from the recent banquet provided support for the meal.
Gabrovsek said many of the individuals are incarcerated for domestic violence, armed robbery or drugs.
“Some will get out and the message of Christ will be with them. We let them know that through Christ, all things are possible. Once in a while I will be out somewhere and someone whom I had visited in prison or jail will come over to me and say ‘You changed my life,'” Cowie said.
John Russell of Champion said he has been to different correctional facilities — even out of state — and also to Ohio death row in Chillicothe. He said it was Dr. Frank Veres who got him started in the program.
Cowie said he is aware that some leave prison and work in the ministry.
“We help lead them to Jesus,” he said.
DelVecchio said he gets satisfaction in seeing some of the prisoners turn their lives around.
“It is a great satisfaction in knowing that a life that came in misguided is now in a new direction and making an impact on other people. It is always a blessing when they see me and remember me and say what an impact I had on their lives by what I shared and said,” DelVecchio said.
Russell said he also appreciates hearing, “Do you remember me?”
Cowie, a police chaplain in Newton Falls, said there is hope in proclaiming the Gospel.
Gabrovsek, who started in 1989 said “this is a calling” to be part of the group.
For information, call Cowie at 330-646-3698 or write to His Hand Extended Ministry, P.O. BOx 107, Warren 44482.