RAYMONDVILLE – In 2004, a typical Sunday morning saw six or eight in attendance at First Baptist Church here. After near extinction, the country church in a town of 363 is averaging closer to 45 for Sunday morning worship, but it’s not the statistics or number of voices in the choir that are important to Pastor Frank White. For him, he said it’s all about the church’s love for the community, which naturally leads to a growing, healthier church.
Plans call for a street ministry to begin soon and the church recently started a chapter of FAITH Riders, a Baptist motorcycle group. But community also encompasses those a church may normally overlook.
“In Matthew 25 Christ directs us, his people, to be compassionate toward those considered the ‘least’ by society’s standards,” White said. “Who are these ‘least’ individuals? The poor? The hungry? The sick? What about those in jail? Are they a disgrace to society and should never be visited or told about Jesus’s wonderful news? We need to be missionaries starting here.”
One of the biggest ways First Baptist has seen God work is through what White calls the “jail house ministry.” Along with members of nearby Ozark Baptist, Bucyrus Baptist and Manes Baptist, First Baptist has been putting love into action at the Texas County Jail.
Around 8 p.m. on the second and fourth Monday of the month, the jailer escorts up to six men and six women from the churches to be with inmates for an hour, often just to sit, talk, listen and share Jesus on a personal level.
“It’s unbelievable how receptive and hungry for the Word of God most of the inmates are,” White said. “For a long time, they have tried to understand the void, the black hole if you will, that haunts them in their hearts. Now, to hear a plan of saving hope, to see that there are people who have love and compassion for them is way beyond anything that they thought could exist in this old world.”
Since First Baptist and the partnering churches began visiting the Texas County Jail this spring, inmates have received more than 100 Bibles and 40 have accepted Christ. The Lord is working there. To see and hear them ask questions and respond to explanations is a real heart-felt blessing.”
One of the reasons White is so passionate for this particular ministry, is because he knows firsthand it can change a life.
“I got saved when I was in jail, so I can’t say it doesn’t work,” White said.
That was 45 years ago, when White rode with the Hell’s Angels in upstate New York. In jail for disorderly conduct, a Seventh Day Adventist gave him a Bible and a tract while in he was solitary confinement for fighting.
“I was lying in my bunk reading that little red Bible he gave me, and I accepted Jesus as my savior. The tract he left with me said John 3:16, but I read it as ‘For God so loved Frank, that He gave His only begotten Son, that he could believe and have everlasting life.’”
The seed of the gospel may not take root in every inmate that rotates through Texas County, but for some it flourishes.
“They just need compassion and someone to share with them, and even cry with them,” he said. “I’m living proof that Jesus can save you in jail and do a good work through you. I tell them that when I got saved, I was wearing a pretty suit just like you.”
Whether a believer is sitting on a bunk in the county jail or a pew at First Baptist Raymondville, the key to discipleship is the same, White said.
“You have to fall in love with Jesus,” he said.