Engaged in Mission: FreedomWorks

Engaged in Mission: FreedomWorks

Longtime Colonial member, Jerry Potter, is engaged in a mission devoted to bringing reentry services for felons.

Jerry – along with Bob Neal, Barry Naugle, Paul Ramseyer, Cliff Johnson and several other Colonial members – dedicates regular time to FreedomWorks and various other prison ministries in Faribault, Sandstone, and Stillwater. For half of his life he has spent time each week with inmates at the prisons. This commitment is in addition to a successful career, a long marriage, and raising 4 children.

FreedomWorks is a Christian, post-prison home and ministry for former felons. Their mission is “to provide reentry services on behalf of former prisoners and their families, leading to full integration into society as productive citizens and disciples of Jesus Christ, resulting in a reduced rate of recidivism”. FreedomWorks focuses on building caring relationships with former prisoners and their families during incarceration and providing support services to help meet their needs upon release. Jerry and others are involved with their Thursday evening prayer meetings, teaching, mentoring, fellowship dinners, and other events. In nominating Jerry, Ron Dobies writes, “At age 82 Jerry has been doing prison ministry for over 40 years and, like the Energizer Bunny, keeps on ticking and serving.”

Jerry is very clear that this is not his work and it was not his choice to get involved in prison ministry. “The Lord woke me up one night and put this on my mind, telling me to think about prison ministry. Shortly thereafter a man knocked on my door that was looking for men to begin prison ministry. So I responded and I have been involved nearly every Thursday night since then. That was 40 years ago.”

At that time prison ministry was a new idea and volunteers were hard to come by. Jerry felt he was uniquely called, even taking a one year sabbatical to travel across the country and visit prisons and create prison ministries in communities. Now Jerry notes there are a wide variety of prison ministries including Curseo weekends and weekly Bible studies. Again and again as we spoke Jerry emphasized, “This isn’t my work, it is the Lord’s work, it is the work of many, many people committed to a wider prison ministry movement. Where nothing previously existed there are now nearly 20-30 people going to Sandstone for Saturday meetings each week.”

When asked why he has continued his work, Jerry recognizes that the need is great and few know how to respond. He has witnessed the prison population expand exponentially over the past 4 decades alongside fewer resources dedicated to rehabilitating men entering with deeper and more serious issues. Jerry states, “God shows up with these men every Thursday night and that is the only sound method of changing their lives. Delivering the Bible’s message and teaching them how God wants them to live life is the only thing that works.”

Jerry knows that weekly ministry in the prisons has changed him but he cannot name specifically how because it has been a constant presence in his life. “Often times I am very tired when I start down the road Thursday night to Faribault. There is lots of traffic, the weather might be bad, I am too tired to focus. The drive down to the prison can be tough. But then every time, when I am with the men, the Lord shows up. And without fail on my return trip I feel so great it is as if my wheels are not even hitting the road! Proof that the Lord refreshes us and I end up realizing I don’t want to miss it the next week!”

His dream is for Colonial and the greater community to recognize all those involved in prison ministry, not just a single person or single program.

Want to help?  Contact Jerry at jerrypotter12@gmail.com.

Jerry’s story is another example of those who are engaged in mission outside the walls of Colonial. This story has inspired Ron Dobies, who nominated Jerry for the piece and it was prepared by Jen Thomas, a member of our Mission Journalism Task Force. (Click here to learn more about our “Engaged in Mission” initiative or to nominate someone to have their story told.)

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