We are happy to announce that these facilities are on the verge of reopening. Currently the following have reopened: MCF -St Cloud; MCF-Stillwater; MCF-Rush City.
“Minnesota Department of Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell has directed each of the state’s prisons to implement “Stay with Unit” plans to provide living unit separation, and to minimize the potential for COVID-19 spread. “Stay with Unit” ensures incarcerated individuals participate in facility activities, including any programming, yard time, and dining, only with others in their living unit. By providing living unit separation, better social distancing becomes possible and we minimize the potential for widespread outbreaks across entire facilities” (https://mn.gov/doc/about/covid-19-updates/mcf-stillwater-covid-19-response/).
Based on the foregoing, face-to-face visits regarding religious services are still suspended. However, there is still dialogue between MN Correctional Facilities (MCFs) and volunteers. We have been advised by Chaplains that they are still studying the possibility of resuming religious services as soon as it is humanly possible. The current pandemic with its emerging variant(s) has protracted the process. So far regarding the MCFs, about 6 of our current volunteers have been retrained virtually – Rush City, Oak Park Heights, Stillwater. There are also discussions for virtual services via Microsoft Teams. Please note that we will need volunteers when the MCFs eventually reopen face-to face services – All volunteers will have to be vaccinated.
MCF- Stillwater has sent out a plan regarding what in person service may look like- 2 volunteers with 16 Offenders (in the main chapel) all socially distanced at 6 feet and everyone will need to remain in his space. No congregational singing will be permitted – only one person allowed to sing. Everyone will have to wear his/her mask at all times. No hugging, no physical contact allowed. Persons will have to use restroom before attending services – no bathroom break during services.
Currently, we have 3 volunteers providing religious services at the Benton County Jail in St Cloud. Our volunteers go in person to the jail but do not see the Offenders in person – they are in a different room from the Offenders and connect virtually.
The MN Conference of SDAs has ordered and received 5000 Andrews Study Bibles in mid-January 2022. These will be distributed to the various MCFs throughout the year. We thank, Elder Lyons and his staff for project and for their t support to Prison Ministries (MN Adventist Prison Ministries (MAPM).
The Christmas Behind Bars’ (CBB) package distribution went well last December (2021) despite a late start. Over 2,700 packages were delivered to 43 jails, 2 shelters, and 3 youth group homes. These packages were stored at the Countryside SDA Church in Sauk Rapids – members assisted in unloading the semi. MAPM also want to thank the volunteers who delivered these packages to their destinations. We also want to thank the churches and individuals who made financial contributions so that we could promptly defray the cost associated with this undertaking.
Since February 2020, face to face visits have been suspended indefinitely owing to the COVID-19 pandemic; The state prisons and jails have not allowed volunteers into their facilities. The spike in COVID-19 cases especially in the state prisons have been serious and on the rise since July 2020. MCF – Stillwater reports that 1 in 3 inmates has COVID-19 – https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2020/10/23/1-in-3-inmates-at-stillwater-prison-currently-have-covid-figures-show/.
See Facility Specific COVID-19 Responses – https://mn.gov/doc/about/covid-19-updates/facility-specific-covid-19-responses/
Since the end of July 2020, MCF-St Cloud will temporarily cease being the intake facility for the state prisons – MCF- Lino Lakes to assume this responsibility for now.
Since September there have also been spikes in COVID-19 cases at Sandstone and Waseca (Federal facilities)- https://www.startribune.com/covid-19-cases-spike-at-two-federal-prisons-in-minnesota/572527681/
There is no indication that volunteers will be returning to the state prisons any time soon. Let us continue to pray for these facilities – the inmates/offenders and employees.
In 2016, one of the incarcerated men at MCF-Moose Lake , was convinced that the Lord wanted him to provide a baptistery in this facility. Other men contributed to the cause as well. We became involved in the transaction and with the blessing of the facility was allowed to facilitate the purchase of the portable baptistery. The purchased was finalized in April 2016 and the baptistery delivered.
Shortly after, one offender requested to be baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist. We did not have an available pastor to visit so the MN Conference authorized Elder Andrew, our Vice President (of MAPM) to visit and conduct baptisms in the Department of Corrections prisons.
Elder Andrew and his associate Bro Errol visited the baptismal candidate ( let us call him John) over a six month period and John finally decided to be baptized. After consulting with the Chaplain, the date was set for Wednesday, March 15, 2017. This would be our very first baptism.
Five of us attended the baptism from MAPM; Debbie, our president, Frank, Janis, Stewart, and I. The chaplain had an additional 6 candidates for baptism. I was in charge of the service which included a sermonette as the candidates were reminded what baptism is, its significance, and what is meant for them. To our amazement one of the six candidates insisted that he wanted to be baptized as a Seventh-day Adventist; he wanted to be baptized just once. Hence I baptized not one but 2 candidates. Praise the Lord!
It was absolutely a jubilant time for us as we rejoiced as the men entered the watery grave of baptism and arose as new men ready to serve the Lord. We voted our two baptized members into fellowship and furnished them with their baptismal certificates. They were very happy as they took their stance for Jesus. I will follow them up with periodical visits, continue to encourage them to attend our worship services on the 2nd and 3rd Sabbaths, and ensure they are still enrolled in Bible correspondence.
It was surely a high day for us and we hope that this will be just the tip of the iceberg, setting the stage for other baptisms to occur throughout the system. Please continue to pray for our new Brothers-in-Christ and for MAPM as we forge ahead in Jesus’ name.
This is the first of what we hope will be many posts on our new site. We’ll use this space to regularly update the community on our activities and events. You can also use the site to learn more about our organization, contact us, or find a nearby church. Feel free to reach out if you know someone who might be blessed by our outreach.