Barry Black Is Featured Speaker at Touch of Love Rally
Barry Black, chaplain for the United States Senate, was the featured speaker for a Touch of Love rally held at the Paradise Valley church in National City on August 1.
Touch of Love ministries, founded and directed by Michael Ashley, has introduced 50,000 prison inmates to Jesus in the 21 years of its existence. Last year, 167 baptisms resulted from this ministry, which involved 200 trained volunteers covering the prisons of California, the largest penal system in the country with 171,000 people incarcerated, and in Texas.
Recently, the ministry enlarged its outreach to include the children of inmates. In one women's prison, there are 1,700 prisoners with an average of three children per inmate. Statistics show that one out of three of these children will follow in their parents' footsteps unless something is done to care for them.
Last summer, Touch of Love sponsored nine children at Leoni Meadows summer camp, and they hope to provide this opportunity to many more children.
In a sermon illustrated with his experience of growing up in a home with an absentee father, Black asked the congregations in both the morning and afternoon services, "What about the children?" Drawing from the example of Jesus, who called children to Him, Black challenged listeners to "find their way to greatness" by doing something about the children in their communities.
In the afternoon session at the Paradise Valley church, two women who served time in California prisons shared their stories. From the age of 18, Roxanne Rafanan spent a lot of time in and out of prisons. Her resolutions to change her life fell apart every time she was released; but finally, she met Jesus through a Touch of Love service.
"I was happy to know that real people outside prison were willing to come and share the gospel," she said. "They didn't know me, but they prayed for me."
Rafanan made a commitment to Jesus, and a few days after leaving prison, she contacted Ashley who, she discovered, lived only five minutes away. She immediately began Bible studies and was baptized into the San Bernardino 16th Street church. Every Sabbath found her at the altar crying.
"What's wrong?" Ashley finally asked her.
"It's my children," she said. "I made many mistakes as a mother, but I want my two sons to know Jesus."
Rafanan's prayers were answered. Her 18-year-old son took Bible studies and was baptized March 7, 2009. Her younger son was baptized May 6.
Tina Lewis, a 4.0 graduate of USC and a successful physician's assistant, found herself in prison serving a seven-year term.
"I regret being away from my daughter," Lewis said, "but I do not regret having gone to prison. I needed to be humbled." She attended Touch of Love services while there.
Miraculously, Lewis's prison term was cut short. Upon her release, she contacted Touch of Love and began Bible studies. She was planning to be baptized on Aug. 22 into the Normandie Avenue church in Los Angeles.
Lewis accepts collect calls from the women she met during her incarceration, who invariably want her to contact their children. She rejoices that God has restored her relationship with her own daughter.
Ashley explains that it is more cost effective to invest money in the children now, rather than letting them drift into a life of crime that costs society much more than dollars invested in prevention.
It costs about $225 to send a child to summer camp. Black ended his message with the personal commitment of this amount and challenged listeners to do the same.
Other participants in the Sabbath services were Ron Morrison, National City mayor; Rudy Bermudez, Touch of Love board member and director of prison ministries for Southeastern California Conference; and Bobby Mitchell, from the Pacific Union, chair of the Touch of Love board.
For more information or to sponsor a child, contact Touch of Love at 951-485-0226, firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.newbeginningstol.org.