More than 100 J. Reuben inmates now watch full church service every Sunday

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – A church in Conway brought a new type of jail ministry to J. Reuben Long Detention Center. Inmates are now able to watch a full church service in the jail. Jail officials said the services also help former inmates stay out of jail.

Every Sunday afternoon at 2 o’clock, more than 100 inmates at J Reuben Long file into five classrooms to watch a church service. Chaplain Eddie Hill with the Horry County Sheriff’s Office said The Rock Church services have drawn more inmates than any other ministry he’s seen in this jail. “Not an argument, not a fight, not anything within the context of those services,” he said.

It’s the same service hundreds of members of The Rock Church in Conway watch that same morning. Almost 30 volunteers from the church help lead the services, and hold a discussion and prayer session with the inmates afterward. Hill said, “It gives them hope. It gives them the ability to move forward. It gives them a reason to change their lives.”

“God is definitely working in the church and in the jail,”  said Steve Tyler. He is a jail ministry volunteer with The Rock, as well as a former inmate at J Reuben. He says it’s never too late to turn your life around. “I’ve been there and I know what it’s like. God can change you. I’m a living example of that. I turned my life over to Jesus Christ and he changed me.”

The Rock set up its satellite campus at the jail almost nine months ago. According to Chaplain Hill, several inmates released from J. Reuben since then, now attend the church. “She can get plugged into that, and grow from there instead of going back to the same people, places and things that continue to get these inmates in trouble,” he said.

The Rock holds a weekly addiction recovery program, and plans to start a fellowship group for former inmates who now attend the church. “It costs a lot of money to house inmates. Anytime we can do programs that will help people to not come back, what we’re trying do is show them, there’s hope,” said Hill.

Chaplain Hill said the program is growing so much the jail plans to add the church service in a sixth housing unit at J. Reuben Long.