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Kansas church plans resource center for released prisoners

Inner-city congregation working to expand its outreach to former inmates who have served their time.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Monique Singh wraps her arms around Vickie Owens, her beloved sister in Christ, and gently kisses the side of her head.
If not for Owens and fellow members of the Roswell Church of Christ, Singh has no doubt that she’d still be trapped in an abyss of desperation and despair.
“God has delivered me from the bondage of myself: drugs, alcohol, prostitution, gang affiliation, homelessness, a hopeless state of mind,” said Singh, 45. “I realized I needed a savior — Jesus — and this family took me in as I was and loved me until I learned to love myself.”
Through inmate mentoring, addiction support groups, private counseling and transitional “houses of hope,” the Roswell church strives to share Jesus — and a better way of life.
Now the inner-city congregation endeavors to renovate a one-time dry cleaners and transform it into a Christian resource center to serve prisoners after their release.

“Christ reached out to the downtrodden. I don’t think we should be any different,” church elder Randy George said, recalling Jesus’ concern for the “least of these” in Matthew 25. “If we’re going to impact the community, we have to reach out to those who feel that they have no hope.”
The Kansas Department of Corrections has an initiative called Mentoring4Success. The program, supported by Gov. Sam Brownback, aims to provide a mentor for every person coming out of prison.
“The governor has found out what we already know,” George said. “In order to have a higher success rate, many of those that have been incarcerated need support once they’re released.
“If they don’t have support, they will go back to the same environment that caused them to be incarcerated,” the elder added. “So the church has been very active in not only preaching the Gospel in the prison but trying to follow through.”
Roswell members collaborate on inmate mentoring with the Bonner Springs Church of Christ and the Overland Park Church of Christ — both in Kansas. Also active in the jail and prison ministry are the Heartland Church of Christ and the Swope Parkway Church of Christ, both in Kansas City, Mo.
With help from volunteers, including union laborers, the Roswell church has put a new roof on the former cleaners and installed external doors and windows, minister emeritus James O. Maxwell said.
However, completing the project will require an additional $200,000 to $300,000, said Maxwell, who serves as vice president of institutional advancement for Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas, and commutes to Kansas City on weekends.
“This is really bigger than all of us — but not too big for God,” Maxwell said of the resource center. “We believe if we share this need with the brotherhood, what we want to do and how we want to do it, there may be people who say, ‘Yeah, I think that’s a good work and want to support it.’”
The project has the backing of Nathan Barnes, a commissioner for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan.
Barnes describes the Roswell church as a beacon of light in a blighted community.
“They are roll-up-your-sleeves and start-where-you-are kind of people,” Barnes said of the church. “I’m with them 150 percent.”
Already, the 400-member congregation is building a housing complex to serve low-income senior citizens. Funded with a $5.1 million federal grant, that project is expected to be completed by next spring.
“Economically, what we’ve been able to do is nothing but a miracle because we’ve been able to do it on faith,” George said. “Just within the congregation, many people would say there’s no way we could have done what we’ve already done.”

Church leaders envision the resource center as a hub for those seeking employment, housing, food and clothing as well as services such as resume writing, computer training, family and marriage classes and money management seminars.
Owens, a Roswell member for 34 years, served as a mentor when a drug treatment center referred Singh to the congregation’s houses of hope.
“I will brag on Monique,” Owens said, “because you feel good when you’ve helped somebody to turn their life around, to get off the drugs and the old lifestyle, and really become a Christian and do what God wants you to do.”
For nearly three years, Singh has been sober with no relapses, she said. Now she focuses on street outreach, handing out informational flyers to drug addicts, prostitutes and gang members.
The resource center will welcome outcasts, she said, who feel rejected and repugnant.
“Prostitution, drugs, gangs — it’s all in this area that we’re in,” Singh said. “This would be like a light in the dark — a big, bright light.”

TO HELP with the resource center, a nonprofit under the Roswell Church of Christ, see www.roswellchurchof christ.org or write to 2900 Roswell Avenue, Kansas City, KS 66104 Attn.: Randy George.

  • Feedback
    I have a friend who will be released from prison in October and he will be homeless. Could you please guide me to some resources that would be available to him. He is in Norton Correctional facility and will be returning to KCK. Thank you and may God bless your ministry!!!
    Shelly Bryant
    Kansas City, Kansas
    June, 25 2013

Filed under: National

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