MANHATTAN, Kan. -- After more than seven years of hard work and fundraising, one Kansas correctional facility is now home to the largest prison chapel in the nation.
It has been a long and sometimes arduous journey, but a new Spiritual Life Center at the El Dorado Correctional Facility (EDCF) in Kansas is having a big impact. Inmates there are now hearing the gospel in new and fresh ways.
Aaron Harper has served 2 years of a 10-year sentence. As a member of the praise team, Harper said the new Spiritual Life Center has given him a place to draw closer to God.
"To me, I don't see this as prison - I see it as a training ground," Harper said. "God has my full attention. He is able to show me all my own efforts are removed of myself and totally dependent upon Him for my substance of everything. And everything He gives me being here, I am able to give back in return - everything He's given me to give back to the congregation."
While the physical structure itself is impressive, what is even more significant is the building process. None of the construction was paid for with taxpayer dollars. All of it was funded by donations and fundraising events -- and raising over just $1 million in a down economy is simply remarkable.
Lynn Everett McBride, who has served as executive director of Central Kansas Prison Ministry since November 1991, said God first gave him the vision for the Spiritual Life Center seven years ago. He also gives God all the glory for seeing the project through to the end.
"People would send a $1000, $10,000, $50,000, $100,000 or $3.00 - we never knew," McBride said. "Never once in all the years of construction did we stop because we did not have enough money - we always had enough money to keep building."
Some complained that the facility is too nice for inmates. Prison officials disagree, saying faith-based programs help inmates successfully reenter society.
Much of the work was done by inmates. Beginning in October 2005 - construction took a little over four years.
Meanwhile, ither states besides Kansas are looking to faith-based organizations to help rehabilitate inmates. Arizona is seeking to partner with Prison Fellowship Ministries to help keep more criminals from reoffending.