The History of Malachi Men
In September, 2009, Grace Baptist Church initiated a discipling ministry at the Pitchess Detention Center in Los Angeles County. Pitchess is one of nine facilities administered by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. The prior year, in September, Grace Baptist Church had sponsored a one-day Returning Hearts event at Pitchess. The Returning Hearts event was designed by Awana and began several years prior at Angola State Prison in Louisiana. Grace was subsequently invited by the Sheriff’s Department to sponsor the Returning Hearts event annually. Grace requested, and was granted permission, to begin a discipling ministry to supplement the Returning Hearts event. Both programs are part of moral rehabilitation. Initially, Grace intended to use materials adopted by Awana for a discipling ministry called Malachi Dads which had been tested at the Angola Prison.
For various reasons Grace opted to independently develop a 12-week discipling program for the Pitchess Center but retain the name Malachi Dad’s. The intent of this program was to present a biblical foundation for life, marriage, and parenting. Our hope was that when released, the inmates would be better prepared to assume their God-given responsibility as husbands and fathers, and that they would not return to prison. The program purposely avoided promoting any particular Christian denomination or demeaning any competing belief system. Prior to starting a series each of the inmates is given a two-page document explaining the intent of the program. Participation is voluntary. After the first year the name was changed from Malachi Dads to Malachi Men. The name change served to differentiate the program from Awana’s 12-month series, and also because some men had hesitated to take the program because they were not dads. We wanted the program to be open to all men.
Five men from Grace were involved in the initial ministry. A prison chaplain from Grace escorted the five men each week. Only one of the five had any experience in a prison ministry, and none could anticipate the impact this program would have on both them and the inmates. The Grace team expected to minister to about 20 men; however 26 men volunteered for the program, with an additional two to eight men attending the last six weeks. All those enrolled in the program attended every week, however because of prison transfers and early release, several men were no longer at our facility at the completion of the program. More men attended each time the series was offered, and the number of facilitators grew from five to 17 within two years. The most recent program started with 56 men, graduated 18, but ministered to 122 men during the 12 weeks. Men are constantly moving in and out of the county jail system so most men are unable to attend all 12 lessons. Some men start the last half of the series in the fall and pick up the beginning lessons during the spring.
At the first session the inmates made it clear that they were looking for real answers and effective tools for dealing with life’s problems. The five Grace facilitators were forced to rely entirely on God and His Word for answers and direction. Only God has real answers, and only God provides real hope along with contentment and purpose. As a result the team grew closer to God and bonded as a group. Both the facilitators and the inmates looked forward to their weekly time sharing God’s Word. God was working in the lives of all those involved in this program. Some of the inmates dramatically changed their world-view and became Christ followers. Being a part of this program was an inspiring and growing experience for all the facilitators.
The facilitators of this program at Pitchess have been blessed to see God reconcile men to Himself, rescue families from the tragedy of divorce, reconcile parents and children after years of angry silence, bring entire families to saving faith, turn men from a selfish pursuit of pleasure (drugs, alcohol, sex) to a strong desire to please and obey God, transform anger into worship, and lead cohabitating couples to marriage. One of the most amazing evidences of transformed lives was when God used the inmate believers to stop a prison riot in August, 2010.