A large metal door clanged loudly behind the two ministers, shutting them inside the prison. The sound echoed off the walls of the bare hallway as the Matthew Conley and Mark Hunt were led down the corridor. Their mission – to bring hope to those locked inside.
Conley, a former assistant professor of Bible, and Hunt, associate vice president for executive and professional enrollment, have been working with the prison ministry for over 20 years, bringing the Gospel to the prisoners at Kilby Correctional Facility, Easterling Correctional Facility and Red Eagle Work Center. They have seen desperation, fear and hopelessness on the faces of thousands of men, including murderers, sexual predators, robbers and thieves. They all have the same question: Is there hope for me?
Walking into the prison for the first time was eye-opening, Conley said.
“When those electric gates slam shut, you’re at the mercy of the person in control of security,” said Conley. “There is no need to fear because Christ has defeated death for me.”
Using a program based on the New Life Behavior Ministries program in Corpus, Christi, Texas, Conley and Hunt conduct worship services on Sunday evenings at the prison and teach monthly Bible classes.
“When we preach to those men inside, we can see the change in their eyes. They are enlightened. They begin to look at scripture differently. They begin to study and tell other inmates of that hope.”
Conley joined the prison ministry through University Church of Christ “to serve the Lord and spread the borders of the kingdom.” He has where he has been instrumental in the baptism of more than 3,000 inmates.
Hunt joined Conley after hearing of the lives that were being transformed.
“I kept hearing Matthew talk about the ministry and decided it was an area where I could contribute,” said Hunt. “After seeing his dedication to the ministry, and the need for participants, I couldn’t walk away and avoid an opportunity to share God’s Word, even if it was inside a prison.”
“It’s an entirely different world. They desperately they need to hear about the good news of Jesus Christ, but they’re incarcerated. It takes considerable effort to gain access to them.”
“Their circumstances sometimes cause them to open their hearts and minds to a new way of living,” Hunt added.
For Conley, his joy comes from seeing lives transformed both inside prison and inside his classroom.
“I find such joy when I see not only the lives of inmates prospering after knowing God, but when my students began to blossom spiritually,” Conley said. “I get emails from students who have said their eyes were opened to Jesus Christ.”
“The prison is my mission. My classroom was also my mission. I don’t need the paycheck. My reward is seeing those young minds blossom in knowing the Lord.”
Matthew Conley served as an assistant professor of Bible in undergraduate studies of both Old and New Testament courses.
Mark Hunt is the associate vice president for Executive and Professional Enrollment.