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University City has been involved in ministering to men and women in prison in the Gainesville and North Central Florida area since 1984, when three men of the congregation began holding Bible studies at the Gainesville Road Prison on Florida State Road 26.
A significant part of UCCC's involvement in the prison ministry is its financial support of the prison-based ministry supervised by the Lake Butler church of Christ. This work, begun in 1957, has seen more than 100 men brought into a relationship with the Lord every year. UCCC member Gary Wyder oversees the Lake Butler church's prison ministry program.
Most of the Lake Butler church's work is centered in Union County with a weekly Bible study, one-on-one counseling, and a Bible-based 12 Step class at the Reception Center in Lake Butler. Each Sunday, the churches of Christ conduct worship services at Union Correctional Facility in Raiford, at the Florida State Prison at Starke, and at the Lawtey Correctional Facility. Church members also visit the Gainesville Correctional Institution on NE 39th Avenue twice a week. The Lake Butler church's program also includes getting other local prison and jail ministries started and providing training for these programs.
UCCC's women's jail ministry began in 2000 as the result of a member's daughter being in the Alachua County Jail. This heartache spurred her to ask Gary Wyder to visit her daughter. Gary went to see her, and since women's needs at a time of crisis are unique, Gary asked Lynn Paden, a nurse and UCCC member, to accompany him on a visit. With Gary's support and presence, they visited this woman for several months until she was released.
Visiting this one lady began Lynn's education and involvement of Lynn in women's jail ministry. Seeing the great need and amazing opportunity to share the Gospel, Gary and Lynn recruited more workers who have become known as UCCC's "jailbirds," but more recently have adopted the name "Jail Doves" to represent the peace God brings to all, especially those incarcerated.
Now in its 9th year, the ladies conduct Bible studies every Tuesday and Thursday evening in the Alachua County Jail. Attendance averages from 10-15.
The House of Hope of Alachua County is another prison-related program supported by UCCC. It is a volunteer driven, inter-denominational, not-for-profit, faith-based support program for Christians recently released from incarceration.
One evening per month, UCCC members provide dinner for the residents in the "House," and weekly UCCC members provide transportation for House of Hope residents to worship and Bible studies. Two UCCC members serve on the House of Hope's board of directors.
In 2009, UCCC sponsored and hosted the Florida Prison Ministry Workshop for churches of Christ.
Contact: Gary Wyder, email@example.com