Local pastor baptizes 6 inmates at Jasper County Jail

Outreach program returns to Jasper County Jail
Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 4:16 PM CST
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BAY SPRINGS, Miss. (WDAM) - What once was the norm is new again at the Jasper County Jail.

The Jasper County Sheriff Department’s ministry program recently returned after a hiatus due to COVID concerns.

“We will never deny an inmate or a preacher the time to spend together,” Jasper County Sheriff Randy Johnson said. “These guys and ladies are in need, sometimes, and this is a good place to get them.”

Michael Bender Sr. is one of several speakers as a part of the ministry program, and he said he jumped at the opportunity to extend his reach in the community.

“The one thing I don’t want to ever do is forget about people,” said Bender. “And, so, those that are usually left out, those are the ones we want to bring into the kingdom,” Bender said. “We want to make sure that they are getting the word of God; that they are growing in Christ.

“Just because we have a past doesn’t mean we can’t have a great future.”

Mark McCray was one of six inmates baptized by Bender. McCray said that future and his family were the main catalysts in his decision.

“I’ve gotten older now, and I figured it’s time for me to settle down and get my life right,” McCray said. “I got a little girl. She’s eight years old. I just want to see her grow up and have things for her.”

Christian Backer also was baptized, and he chose to look at the bright side of his circumstance.

“I read the Bible every day,” Backer said. “I pray to Him every night, and I used to not do either of those things. So I’m very blessed to actually be sitting here in jail, because I would have never come closer to God if I wasn’t.”

Bender says there is one important factor to remember for those who may question the legitimacy of a jailhouse ministry.

“The difference between that is faith,” Bender said. “You’ve got to really believe that people are genuine, that the faith that they have right now is not just because I’m in this situation, because if that’s the case, we get into situations even outside of prison. Is my faith not valid just because I’m having a hard time right now and I’m running to God?

“No. My faith is valid, because I need him in this moment and I need him every day, really.”

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