Thanks to Idaho Volunteers, Oregon's
Prison Ministry Programs Going Strong!
David Ronk, prison ministries leader, and current pastor of the New Plymouth Seventh-day Adventist Church has a passion for bringing men to know Christ who society has counted out. The New Plymouth congregation is located inside the Idaho Conference, however, 98% of the 3,000 inmates of the Snake River Correctional Institution (Ontario, Oregon) are Oregonians.
Ronk has been involved in prison ministries since 1994 when he and three others went through a day long program and background screening. Over the last 15 years, Ronk has faithfully organized and attended two services each week at the prison. His volunteer crew at one point swelled to 26, but presently hovers around half a dozen. Ronk admits it may be time again to visit numerous local area churches to gather more volunteers to his roster. Presently, volunteers for this ministry all come from surrounding Idaho churches.
Though the New Plymouth congregation is quite small, their volunteers still commit to spending every Sabbath afternoon and Wednesday night sharing the message of God's love with the Snake River inmates. The New Plymouth Church provides the inmates with a Seminars Unlimited KJV Bible, Daniel and Revelation seminar materials, Steps to Christ, Christ's Object Lessons, and the Adult Sabbath School quarterlies--all free of charge. The volunteers only ask the inmates to invite others.
For Ronk, the words of Hebrews 13:3 (NIV), "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering," are being put into action by his volunteers. Over the 15 years, Ronk has tracked 154 baptisms, which usually occur in multiples on a Sabbath afternoon. Although decisions for Christ are harder to quantify, he feels confident the Holy Spirit has touched the lives of thousands of inmates over the years.
Ronk explains, "God knows the quality of the soul of each man, and loves them. When these men accept Christ, they tell me, they went to prison to find Christ! They had too busy a life and went down the wrong roads. We go there to bring them an open door to Christ. These are some of Oregon's most violent criminals, and they are welcoming the gospel of Jesus."
The story of one inmate a few years back still sends chills up Ronk's spine when he considers how the Lord touched his life. Ronk met inmate Geno Ray Brown in November 1998, and recalls he was a tall, skinny man who had gone against every principle of the Gospel.
"Brown was the adopted son of a well known Baptist minister in Portland, and he quite literally grew up in the church. He was a musical prodigy, and was capable by 7 years old to play piano in front of a full congregation. Brown's life went away from God, and he eventually became a Wicken and involved with crime. By the time I met him, he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer," Ronk said.
Having heard of the prison ministries, Brown requested a visit with Ronk. Two weeks later, Ronk had organized an anointing. With both men on their knees and deep in prayer, Ronk asked for Brown's healing. By the time the prayer and anointing were completed, Ronk was convinced that Brown had been healed. It was later confirmed that the cancer had left the inmate's body! After additional Bible study with Ronk, Brown was baptized two months later. He left the prison shortly after (his charges had been thrown out based on false evidence).
"Prisons don't have baptismal pools," remarks Ronk. As such, Ronk has had to improvise. He has found that the prison's large canvas laundry cart (on wheels) is actually quite capable of holding a considerable volume of water and fitting even the largest inmate. Full of water, the inmate climbs into the cart, and kneels. With the help of four volunteers, the sinner can be submerged and experience a full immersion baptism in Christ's name.
Each service at the prison lasts about 2 hours, and is attended by approximately 40 men, typically from the higher security complexes. Services are faithfully offered on Wednesdays and Sabbaths, and Ronk tells the men that when they pray, that prison becomes a church. They start with prayer, sing three songs, have a Sabbath School lesson, and then typically have a sermon.
Ronk, at 68 years of age, is going strong, and just as passionate as ever about this ministry. Three years ago, when New Plymouth's former pastor left, Ronk was tapped by the Conference as the first elder to become the new pastor. Ronk, a roofer for 22 years, was all too glad to answer the call, and realizes there is no retirement plan in God's army.
Of this article's readers, Ronk requests prayers, and would also welcome donations to cover the expenses of purchasing new copies of large print Bibles, Ellen White's writings, and Bible study seminars. "Whatever we bring to the men must be new and shrink wrapped to clear the requirements of security," Ronk explains.
If you would like to support this faithful and successful ministry to Oregon's inmate population, please call the New Plymouth Church at 208.278.3813, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.