Mission Behind Bars and Beyond

Winter February 2015 Newsletter

Our vision

We envision a world in which every community is equipped to welcome, support and nurture every returning citizen to re-enter society as healthy and productive citizens. Mission Behind Bars and Beyond is helping to make a safer world, one returning citizen at a time.

Mission Behind Bars and Beyond to Co-Sponsor Statewide Training Event

MBBB is co-sponsoring the Second Annual Reaching Individuals Beyond & Behind the Bars Conference on March 14th in Louisville, Kentucky.

The keynote speaker will be our own Mark Johnson, chair of the MBBB board. Mark recently retired as the Reentry Affairs Coordinator for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, in Lexington, Kentucky. In addition, he and Rev. Dean Bucalos will be leading one of the workshops on mentoring. Other workshops will cover topics about jail ministry, collaborating with families of the incarcerated, working with people in recovery, grant writing and prison ministry. In addition, there will be two panel discussions that will include family members of those incarcerated and returning citizens. For more detailed information check the Greater Louisville Reentry Coalition website at www.louisvillereentry.org
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New Life in Christ Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

New Life in Christ Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is affiliated with Mission Behind Bars and Beyond. It not only provides a spiritual home for those who are behind bars but also offers tools for living healthy, productive and faithful lives once released from prison.

New Life In Christ Christian Church Pays it Forward

For two evenings before our worship services in December, the cafeteria at Dismas Charities-Diersen where New Life in Christ Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is located was buzzing with activity. A sewing machine was whirring, scissors were cutting, a laminating machine was pressing and tables of women were cutting and sewing and decorating and stuffing Christmas stockings to be given to the children of Wayside Christian Mission, a local homeless shelter. Organized and led by Pastors Tomeka Jacobs and Carol Weiger, both recent graduates of Lexington Theological Seminary, the women of New Life in Christ found a way to celebrate the joy of Christmas giving. Their smiling faces confirmed the gift of paying it forward.

Each woman was able to use her creative talents in designing the stockings and finding Bible verses to be laminated on bookmarks. Donated books and toiletry items were also included in the stockings.

Each evening was followed by worship led by visiting congregations. St. Peter United Church of Christ and Shepherdsville Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) both continue to be among many wonderful ministry partners.

Members of Middletown Christian Church's praise band lead worship at New Life in Christ Christian Church

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Get Involved! New Life in Christ Christian Church Thrives at Dismas Charities-Diersen

How can you support this ground-breaking ministry?

  1. Make a financial pledge to sustain ministry.
  2. Ask your congregation to support Mission Behind Bars and Beyond by including this ministry in your annual budget or by taking a special offering.
  3. Consider welcoming a returning citizen to your community of faith
  4. Become a trained member of a Nurture, Support and Accountability Group that mentors returning citizens.
  5. Come worship with the women at New Life in Christ Christian Church in The Diersen House—all are welcome—every Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m.—1218 West Oak Street, Louisville, Kentucky.
  6. Pray for this ministry and the many lives it will be touching and transforming – both inside and outside the prison.

Consider Making a Gift to Help Support and Sustain Mission Behind Bars and Beyond

We make it simple and we are ever-grateful. To make a tax deductible donation, go to our website www.missionbehindbarsandbeyond.org and use PayPal or send a check to Mission Behind Bars and Beyond, P.O. Box 22034, Louisville, Kentucky 40252.

From the Pastor's Journal

Journal entry:

I begin the day feeling hopeful. Last night at New Life in Christ Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was a good one. The women continue to amaze me. They take on their volunteer tasks seamlessly: setting up for worship, registering visitors, making nametags for everyone, serving at the communion table, and it goes on and on. In their prayer concerns, I sensed and heard tension in the house where they are residing. Putting 70 women together in close quarters, most of whom are in recovery, is a recipe for a lot of conflict. Those who came to worship (about a third of the women living there), came seeking and finding an oasis of calm, peace and positive energy. We considered the opportunity to sponsor a resolution calling for the discontinuation of prolonged solitary confinement in prisons and detention centers across the country. The women understood the concern without having to engage in more study or discussion. For them, it was clearly an issue of social justice to be addressed. Some had been in segregation units themselves. Many knew others who had been. "Yes," they said. And they voted unanimously to support a resolution that would protect the dignity and uphold the humanity of others. It was the church being church. Pure and simple. Were that so everywhere. Blessings, Dean.

National Benevolent Association to Host Event at Ecumenical Advocacy Featuring Mission Behind Bars and Beyond

On April 17-20, Christians from across the country will gather in Washington, D.C. for Ecumenical Advocacy Days. The theme for this year's national event is "Breaking the Chains: Mass Incarceration & Systems of Exploitation." Rev. Bucalos and Mark Johnson, board chair of MBBB, will present along with Mary Mortenson, Executive Director of Prison Congregations of America and Rev. Sharon Cosby, of the Oklahoma Family Empowerment Center on the topic of "Equipping Congregations to Welcome Returning Citizens." For more information about this event go to the Ecumenical Advocacy Days website at www.advocacydays.org.

From the Board Chair...

Mission Behind Bars and Beyond continues to grow and serve our incarcerated and formerly incarcerated brothers and sisters. We strive to meet those needs with our services which include the following: mentoring returning citizens, providing worship at New Life in Christ Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a variety of classes and book studies at Dismas Charities Dierson, and recruitment of volunteers to work with a Nurture, Support, and Accountability Group (NSAG).

In addition to the above services, we are considering adding pre- and post-release case management. Having worked in the Federal Bureau of Prisons as a case manager, supervisor of case managers, and Reentry Coordinator, I know the value of effective case management while incarcerated, and the importance of continuing with it after release. I feel this is a natural progression for Mission Behind Bars and Beyond as we look for the best tools and evidenced-based practices to assist returning citizens.

The greatest asset of an organization like Mission Behind Bars and Beyond is its volunteers who give of their time and expertise to impact the lives of our church members, residents of Dismas Charities Dierson, and NSAG Core Members. Please consider joining us at worship, volunteering to lead a class, being a member of a NSAG, or donating to Mission Behind Bars and Beyond. Your participation with Mission Behind Bars and Beyond not only impacts the lives of returning citizens, but also their families and our communities as well.

More information on Mission Behind Bars and Beyond can be found at:


Mark Johnson, Board Chair

National Benevolent Association to Host Three Webinars on Mass Incarceration

On Wednesday, February 25th, at 8:00 p.m., the National Benevolent Association will host the first of three webinars. The first is, "Mass Incarceration and the Returning Citizen--Tools to equip congregations to respond, welcome and engage." Rev. Dean Bucalos and Rev. April Johnson will be the presenters. Rev. Bucalos will share the Mission Behind Bars and Beyond model of mentoring returning citizens. If you would like to tune in go to the National Benevolent Association website www.nbacares.org. Specific information about the webinar will be posted shortly.

Training for Nurture, Support and Accountability Groups

There continues to be a demand for the formation of Nurture, Support and Accountability Groups to work with returning citizens. Trainings are scheduled in locations to which returning citizens will be going. If you or others you know may be interested in this six hour training, please contact Rev. Dean Bucalos dbucalos@yahoo.com or Mark Johnson at majohnson2008@gmail.com

Restoration of Voting Rights

Mission Behind Bars and Beyond continues to advocate for the restoration of voting rights for returning citizens. For those living in Kentucky, join the rally in Frankfort on February 26th!
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It Works!

We celebrate those returning citizens who have made a successful re-entry into their communities with the help of one of our volunteer mentoring Nurture, Support and Accountability Groups (NSAG). Tammy has moved from her third shift job to day shift. Her NSAG works around her schedule as she is contacted every day. Ryan finds support from his NSAG as he begins his college career after serving many years in prison. Roy continues to meet with NSAG quarterly even after three years from his date of release from prison. Grace met with her NSAG before she left incarceration and stays in touch on a daily basis through texting or phone calls. Just a few success stories as this ministry continues to transform lives. Thank you for your support!