Tom Mathis, 61, recently made profession of faith—not in a church council room but in the Corcoran State Prison. Mathis is now a member of First Christian Reformed Church in Hanford, Calif.
Mathis and a dozen other inmates began studying the Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dort in books donated to the prison library by a Hanford member.
Meanwhile, Mathis’s wife, Lynne, continues to live in Sacramento, where Mathis had run a successful landscaping business until his incarceration five years ago. She attends Living Stones CRC there. It was her pastor, Rev. Paul Vander Klay, who put Mathis in touch with Hanford CRC, which is located 12 miles from the prison.
Hanford elder Dean Johnson had been leading worship services at the Avenal Prison for 10 years and was happy to lead two services a month at Corcoran at the request of Mathis and other inmates.
Soon Mathis, seeking spiritual accountability, asked for a visit from the elders. Rev. Lambert Sikkema and three elders interviewed him and the full council voted to receive him as a professing member.
Johnson speculated that Mathis is the first member of what might become a new elder district for Hanford CRC.