Brooke Wagler and her husband, Billy, have been residents of Muscatine for just over four years. In that time, in addition to becoming familiar with a new town and new positions in employment, the Waglers have launched a jail ministry within the Muscatine County Jail.
Just in Time Ministries works with inmates to teach life skills through Bible study and class settings. The aim of the group is to promote inner healing in each inmate prior to the inmate’s being released. Brooke says that since the beginning of the process, the group has seen the impact of the work they do on the lives of the inmates.
Just in Time will be sending Christmas cards to all 200 inmates housed in the local facility. Each card will have a personalized message and will be addressed to a specific inmate. “Some of these men and women never receive any mail. They don’t have anyone supporting and believing in them,” Brooke says.
Throughout the year, inmates receive a personally addressed birthday card. Brooke explains that small act is sometimes the first step in breaking down barriers. “If they write back from the birthday card, one of the volunteers will begin to correspond with them through letters. These relationships are where trust is created.”
The Waglers have seen firsthand the effects of addiction and the choices surrounding an addicted lifestyle. Their desire is to help inmates and people suffering from addiction. “We just want people who have made mistakes to realize that love can heal a multitude of sins. Sometimes people just need a second chance, and someone to believe in them,” Brooke explains.
Volunteers who wish to work with the ministry must be willing to make a long-term commitment. After undergoing a background check by the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Department, volunteers may begin working with the group.
The Bible study groups are not part of initial visits to the jail. Initial meetings at the jail take place through the telephone communications systems, visiting with an inmate on a one-on-one basis. After six months to a year of the one-on-one visits, the volunteer may be allowed to visit in the conference rooms with the inmates.
Due to the set up of the jail, each housing unit, or pod, may not intermingle with others. When Brooke or Billy visit with inmates, one pod at a time is invited to attend the Bible study, though attendance is not mandatory.
In the men’s housing, up to 30 inmates are housed in each pod, with an average of 10 to 15 attending Bible study. The population is less in the women’s housing, with attendance at Bible studies averaging between three and 10 inmates.
The ministry is funded in part by a church located in Indiana where the couple is from, Island United Methodist Church, and donations from Affordable Metals. In addition to postage, funds are used to provide each inmate with a Bible.
“My dream would be for us to one day have an in-house addiction treatment program,” Brooke says, though such programs can be costly to implement and must meet certain guidelines.
For more information on the program, contact (563) 272-9664.