Prison Fellowship, Hillsong NYC team up to bring 'hope' to inmates at Rikers Island

by Samuel Smith , Christian Post Contributor |

(Prison Fellowship)Inmates participate in a Prison Fellowship "Hope Event" held at Rikers Island in New York City on July 3, 2019.

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Hillsong NYC and Prison Fellowship teamed up to bring a night of "hope" to inmates imprisoned at New York City's infamous Rikers Island detention center on the eve of Independence Day. The event also represented a "full circle" moment for one Prison Fellowship employee.

Around 35 volunteers from the megachurch and some affiliated with nation's largest evangelical prison ministry engaged with 43 male inmates from the city's main jail complex during a worship event held in a Rikers Island gymnasium.

The event was held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and featured live worship from Hillsong NYC's worship band, who were joined by Chris Davenport of Hillsong United. The night also featured testimony from one member of the Hillsong NYC band and message of hope from Prison Fellowship field director Jose Negron.

As many as 21 inmates came forward when given the opportunity to respond to the Gospel, according to Prison Fellowship senior director of programs and special events Jennifer Lowrey.

One song that was played for the inmates was Hillsong United's "Another in the Fire."

"It has an amazing lyric about not being alone and about how Jesus is our other person in the fire with us. I was standing back next to the men so I could see the lyrics. ... I just couldn't stop crying," said Lowry, whose own parents were once detained at Rikers Island when she was a child.

"It just moved me so much. The guy right next to me couldn't stop crying. It was amazing to see."

The night was part of Prison Fellowship's "Hope Events" initiative in which the nonprofit hosts one and two-day evangelism events in hundreds of prisons across the nation each year. At these events, speakers, musicians and volunteers convey to inmates the hope they have found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

According to Prison Fellowship, Hope Events give prisoners a chance to respond to Christ and "take the next step of joining a faith community behind bars." The events normally are held outside prison chapels because they are designed to engage inmates who wouldn't normally attend chapel programming.

In 2018, 209 Hope Events were held in detention facilities nationwide.

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