Blessing from behind bars

Michael Smith

Former Converge Content Specialist

Point Magazine // January 2019

During more than 30 years as pastor of Bethany Community Church, Laurel, Maryland, Kevin McGhee saw many people make large financial contributions to his church. But it’s one relatively small gift that’s made the biggest impact on him.  

That gift of $17.10 came from Garrett, an inmate serving a long sentence at Jessup Correctional Institution (JCI) in Maryland. Garrett is a deacon and worship leader at the House of Worship Church that meets in the prison.  

About 10 years ago, McGhee started coming to JCI monthly to preach at the church. In 2017, he joined Converge International Ministries as director of U.S. Engagement. McGhee began telling the JCI men about the work he was doing — helping churches across the U.S. focus on the center of the Great Commission bull’s-eye: asking God for a gospel movement among every least-reached people group in our generation.  

After one Sunday night service at JCI, Garrett pulled McGhee aside and told him he wanted to give money to McGhee’s new mission. He said, “We’re not allowed to tithe to our church, so I want to tithe to you.”  

The monthly gift of $17.10 is 10 percent of Garrett's monthly earnings for working in the prison.  

“When Garrett first told me that he wanted to give, I had tears in my eyes,” said McGhee. "It blew me away.”  

Everyone can play a part 

Garrett isn’t the only inmate from House of Worship who supports McGhee financially. Two other men, including Ricardo, a founding member and one of the church's pastors, also give monthly.  

In a written comment, Ricardo said that when he gives, “It’s an extraordinarily joyful feeling knowing I have the high privilege of exercising my faith by putting hands and feet to the gospel message.”  

Ricardo, who has been incarcerated for 28 years, reminds us that everyone can play a part in ministry, regardless of circumstance.  

“No gift is too small,” he said. “Remember the widow’s offering: Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on’” (Lk. 21:1-4, ESV).  

“If you have the desire in your heart to give, God will make the way,” Ricardo says.  

He has this advice for those who don’t think they can — or maybe just don’t want to — tithe or give: “Everything we have is given to us by God. We are just stewards entrusted with his resources. Therefore, as freely as we have received, we should likewise freely give.”  

McGhee says if these three men can impact the world for Christ, earning $171 a month, anybody can have a role in helping share the gospel message worldwide to the unreached.  

“I have people who have given me thousands of dollars,” says McGhee. “But it doesn’t have the same emotional feel as this. Because the people who did that didn’t sacrifice nearly as much as these guys.”

Michael Smith, Former Converge Content Specialist

Michael Smith served as a content specialist for Converge from 2018-2021.

Additional articles by Michael Smith