By Special to Mesquite Today
Jehovah’s Witnesses continue their ministry inside prisons without sending in ministers.
COVID-19 shut down access to most U.S. prisons, including the Lovelock Correctional Center located in Lovelock, Nevada, where Joe Arcero volunteers with a group of Jehovah’s Witness ministers. Without warning, inmates were cut off from a robust Bible education program that included weekly Bible-based discourses, audience discussions, individual Bible studies and video presentations.
Within weeks, Jehovah’s Witnesses pivoted their in-person ministry and activities around the country to virtual meetings and preaching through letters, telephone calls and videoconferencing. These changes reaped unexpected and amazing results, as their prison ministry illustrates. Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to build a spiritual lifeline into their local correctional facilities in whatever way they can.
In early February 2020, Arcero was in the final steps of becoming an approved prison volunteer minister. Receiving news of the pandemic lockdown “was kind of a panic for me because here I was given this privilege, this responsibility, and now I had to try to come up with a way to do it differently,” relates Arcero. For Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, the importance of their work never changed.
In the coming weeks, Arcero began writing encouraging letters to the inmates. “It’s very rewarding when I write a letter to an inmate and give them words of encouragement” states Arcero, “then I get a letter back from them thanking me for how encouraging that was to them. And I’ve even had individuals write to me, telling me that they have shared that [information] with their family who is on the outside.”
While inmates value the communication, Arcero understands the isolation is taking its toll on them. “I have received quite a few letters from [inmates] that are…discouraged” notes Arcero, because while being spiritually
supported, they are still “lacking [in-person] association.” More recently Arcero has been able to receive short phone calls from some inmates. Knowing that he has only one chance to answer their call, Arcero prioritizes these opportunities. While brief, those phone calls offer an invaluable lifeline to the incarcerated. He feels it is a “unique privilege” to have this type of ministry. “The inmates here in Nevada, they need to hear [Bible] truth, just like everybody else,” he concludes.
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ value of life is their compelling motivation to produce videos, supply literature and write letters proactively
— whatever it takes to reach inmates with the Bible’s message. Everyone deserves the chance to learn Bible truths. To learn more about Jehovah’s Witnesses and their activity, please visit jw.org.