By Bob Smietana
Robert and Pat Vinroot sometimes skip church on Sundays, but they almost never miss services at Transformation Church on Friday and Saturday. Especially since they get to go to jail.
For the last five years, the Vinroots have worshiped almost weekly with inmates at Kershaw Correctional Institution in South Carolina, about an hour outside Columbia.
About 300 inmates, known as the “Mighty Men of Kershaw,” attend the services, and many are now official members of the church. Inmates help lead worship for the services and facilitate small groups, which study the Scriptures and points from that week’s sermon.
Transformation Church has developed ministries at four other prisons in South Carolina.
And it all started with a simple step of faith by the Vinroots.
A retired missionary friend asked them to hand out gift bags at Kershaw prison at Christmastime, and on a whim, they decided to go along. Robert, a retired airline pilot, and Pat, a former teacher and counselor, had never been inside a jail before. But they thought highly of their friend, says Robert, so they decided to go with her.
“I didn’t think we had a calling for [prison ministry],” he says. “But God works in mysterious ways.”