From a press release
COVID-19 shut down access to most U.S. prisons, including the Central New Mexico Correctional Facility in Los Lunas, where
Emilio Armijo volunteers with a group of Jehovah’s Witness ministers. Without warning, inmates were cut off from a robust Bible education program that included weekly Bible-based discourses, audience discussions, individual Bible studies and video presentations.
Within weeks, Jehovah’s Witnesses pivoted their in-person ministry and activities around the country to virtual meetings and preaching through letters, telephone calls and videoconferencing. These changes reaped unexpected and amazing results, as their prison ministry illustrates.
Jehovah’s Witnesses continue to build a spiritual lifeline into their local correctional facilities in whatever way they can.
Armijo has seen this firsthand in New Mexico. He’s been sharing the Bible’s message with prisoners for 11 years. Before the pandemic, he volunteered at the Los Lunas facility teaching individual and group Bible study sessions, even making provisions to translate for Spanish speakers.
Once the pandemic began, in-person visiting ended. Armijo says, “[That news] was a little bit traumatic because you know how much [the prisoners] depend on those meetings and … they’re progressing so well in their studies and their attitude.”
Armijo’s efforts to contact the prisoners via phone, letters and literature have been appreciated by both staff and the inmates.
Armijo received this note from one inmate, “Thank you for making my time in prison worthwhile. I was able to find what I’ve been looking for.”
This inmate has continued his Bible study after release and is making good progress. Another inmate, who was formerly a drug addict, now spends 50 hours a month in the same volunteer ministry that helped him change so much while in prison.
Even under the more restricted circumstances of the pandemic, Armijo notes that the prisoners studying the Bible are “holding up very well,” using what they’ve learned to remain positive and sharing what’s helped them with other inmates.
Despite the pandemic and prison walls, the Christian ministry “hasn’t died by any means.” Armijo says, “I look forward to going back.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ value of life is their compelling motivation to produce videos, supply literature and write letters proactively — whatever it takes to reach inmates with the Bible’s message. Everyone deserves the chance to learn Bible truths.
To learn more about Jehovah’s Witnesses and their activity, visit jw.org.