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January 27, 2017 - 

In Matthew 25:36 Jesus says, “I was in prison and you came to visit me.” That’s what prompts Dick Ritzema, member of Pease (Minn.) Christian Reformed Church to spend two days a week with men in the county jail.

Ritzema retired from his work as an educator in Christian schools and wanted to reach out to people in deep spiritual need. Many of the men Ritzema meets with have reached the end of their rope, saying, “I’ve had enough! There has to be more to life than what I’m experiencing.”

“I spent decades in Christian education, wrote for CSI [Christian Schools International], and also taught Bible,” said Ritzema. “When you are raised in the CRC and work in Christian schools, you become soaked in a Christian culture. Jails have a high percentage of people who have not been blessed with God’s truth or the church, let alone a Christian culture as found in Christian schools.”

On Tuesdays, Ritzema sits around a table at Mille Lacs County Jail with two to eight men and shares with them the truths of Jesus Christ. He returns on Thursdays to meet with some of them one-on-one. “They really open up then,” he said.

The jail houses 90 to 100 inmates on any given day, and many of the men come and go. Ritzema has managed to stay in touch with several of them, some even after they are out of jail. One deeply troubled man, just hours after he accepted Christ, received an impromptu call from his distant pastor whom he hadn’t heard from in years. Today this man is living a brand new life in the Twin Cities.

“It’s all about seed planting because I cannot follow up with all of them, but ministering at the county jail has opened a mission field ripe with people just like us,” said Ritzema, “lost in sin and in need of a Savior. I have seen phenomenal things happen in the lives of these guys when they accept Christ.”

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