Ministry makes sure Christmas doesn’t pass by children of inmates
Pastor Mo Seneca, of the First Assembly of God in Des Allemands, is part of Innerfaith Prison Ministries Inc., an organization that visits inmates in Louisiana prisons and helps provide for their children.
“When someone gets sentenced to jail, we sometimes tend to forget that it affects their family too,” Seneca said. “Last time I checked, the children didn't do anything wrong and many times they are suffering.”
The Little Lambs Mission is an outreach program of Innerfaith Prison Ministries and it aims to help the children of those who are incarcerated.
The program provides the children with school supplies at the beginning of the school year, two nice Christmas presents during an big annual holiday party and year-round support.
"It's really neat to see their faces...it just really touches your heart," Seneca said. "For some of them, it's really the only Christmas they get."
But the program does a lot more than just give the families food and gifts.
“The state says that 69 percent of all children who have a parent incarcerated will end up in the prison system themselves,” said Christine Roseberry, executive director of Innerfaith Prison Ministries. “Over the last 16 years, we have had about 2,000 kids come through the program and we've only had three that have ever been arrested and none of them have ever done time.
“That's way, way, way below the state average.”
Roseberry and her husband, Russell Roseberry, started Innerfaith Ministries 30 years ago and ministered to only one prison. Now the organization visits 19 facilities in Louisiana on a regular basis. Sixteen years ago, they decided to branch out to help the prisoners' families as well. They started by throwing the children a Christmas party.
“We wanted to somehow bridge the gap between the inmate and their families,” Roseberry said. “Now we've had so many parents tell us that without us, the children would not have a Christmas this year.”
The organization also hosts “family Sundays” with the inmates, giving them the rare opportunity to spend an entire day with their children.
“Many of them say, ‘This is the first time that I have ever spent this much quality time with my child since they were born,'” Roseberry said.
Seneca became involved with the ministry when members of his congregation asked him to minister to prisoners with them about eight years ago.
“I had some reservations…but it was really an awesome opportunity because it wasn't what I expected,” he said. “There were some folks that really understood that they had made some tragic mistakes and made some very poor choices, but we serve a God who forgives, restores and gives second chances…to you, to me, and to those behind prison walls.”
Since joining, Seneca is now a board member in the organization and has had amazing faith-building experiences, including ministering to inmates on death row in Angola Prison.
“It was people who had realized they made tragic mistakes, many of them made those mistakes as teenagers…now they're having to pay the ultimate price,” Seneca said. “But many of them have made their peace with the Lord and certainly that's very commendable.
“Jesus talks about the need to visit those who are down and out. I can't think of anyone more down and out than somebody incarcerated, their freedom taken away.”
Those who want to donate money, Christmas gifts or time to Innerfaith Prison Ministries can call the office at (337)232-1060 or visit www.innerfaithpm.org.
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