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West Michigan Church Shares Christmas at Local Women’s Prison


Women from Cottonwood Christian Reformed Church in Jenison, Mich., celebrated Christmas recently with female inmates at Kent County Jail in nearby Grand Rapids.

The celebration lasted about 30 minutes, including Scripture readings and Christmas songs.

The Christmas celebration is just part of a longstanding commitment Cottonwood has made to minister to inmates in both Kent and Ottawa counties, said Gil Dykstra, who oversees Cottonwood’s jail ministry program.

“We usually have six to eight women who go,” said Gretchen Nyenhuis, who is part of the women’s jail ministry team. “We break into teams of two. Everyone has their own style [of ministering].” Nyenhuis says church members visit the jail every six weeks on a rotating basis. Sometimes the visits involve discussion around a passage of Scripture.

“We find when we interact, the [inmates] take [the message] in better,” Nyenhuis said.

Cottonwood began ministering to women jail inmates 11 years ago, Dykstra said.

Cottonwood partners with Forgotten Man Ministries, a nonprofit organization that has placed chaplains at 40 county jails around Michigan, including the Kent County lockup. Bill Bruursema, the head chaplain at Kent County, is thankful for the devotion Cottonwood has shown in ministering to jail inmates over the years.

“I never have to wonder if Cottonwood is going to have a team come to minister,” Bruursema said. “They are always faithful.”

Bruursema says local churches such as Cottonwood are a big help in organizing worship services for the inmates. He says on any given Sunday, there are 40 worship services taking place at the jail, most organized by local churches such as Cottonwood. Other articles: Light in the Darkness: Testimonies from a Prison Church Prison Congregation becomes First Independent CRC Behind Bars Training Leaders in Prison Northern Lighthouse Shines for Prison Inmates Calvin Students Worship with Prisoners (Calvin Chimes)

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