Listening, Providing Hope, and Growing in the Spirit
When Bill Mattison, KM, looks back on his early days in Prison Ministry, he remembers two initial thoughts. The first, “What would it be like to be in the inmates’ shoes?” The idea was horrifying.
The second thought was, “Is there anything I can do to help these guys go through that experience?” In retrospect Bill said he believes he was being guided by the Holy Spirit to become involved.
A long-time member of the Order of Malta, Bill has worked in Prison Ministry for 15 years. He is part of a team of lay ministers in his community that make weekly visits to the Martin Correctional Institution in Martin County, Florida. In addition to providing a Communion Service, they share scripture readings and engage in one-on-one counseling with the inmates. They also participate in a time of fellowship and camaraderie.
“Some people say Prison Ministry is a ministry of presence,” Bill said. “I say it’s a ministry of listening. These guys want to tell their stories, but even more so they want to talk about where they are now and where they want to go.”
Bill sees an important part of his ministry as providing hope, particularly to new inmates. “They have given up on themselves, and they think they’re not worthy of any kind of consideration from anybody, including God.” He reminds them that, mistakes and all, they are children of God, and so there is hope.
“What our incarcerated brothers see is that we spend time with them, talk to them, help them get to know Christ, enhance their relationships with God, and find ways to serve their fellow men. When they see that, they understand the love we have for them. And that tells them they do have worth.”
Bill said as a result of working in this ministry he finds himself growing in the spirit and growing in grace. “I can’t tell you the effect it’s had on my spiritual life,” he said. “I tell people I drive to prison, but I fly home.”