Chicago, IL-Cook County, Illinois is noted for having one of the largest jail populations in the US. But Bible League International is working with other ministry partners to help Cook County inmates meet Jesus and turn their lives around. Since 2006, more than 1,000 inmates have completed Bible League International's Project Philip Bible study program. And, according to ministry partners administering the program, nearly 50% of them have committed their lives to Christ and report a changed life.
"I have been a criminal most of my life," says Eusebio, a Cook County jail inmate. "But now, through Project Philip, I found salvation. I gave my life to Jesus. My prayers are that God will help me to be strong and wise, to make better choices for my life and for my family's future."
For nearly seven years, Bible League International and Chicago Bible Society have worked together to help chaplains serving Cook County jails. They provide them with training, Bible study materials, and Bibles, to aid in their work of ministering to inmates.
"Project Philip helps inmates realize the spiritual needs they have in a very systematic way," says Chaplain Jesse Nuñez who helps engage Cook County inmates in the in-depth Bible study. "Ninety percent of the material is Scripture! It offers a very simple way for people to learn and come to understand God's Word-and it's helping to transform lives."
"Project Philip, has been a tremendous blessing in my life."
Bible League International's Project Philip program is modeled after the story of Philip, found in Acts 8 in the New Testament. Philip came alongside a stranger struggling to understand God's Word and explained it to him so he could come to know Jesus. Like Philip, Bible League International's program uses simple Bible studies to help participants better understand God's Word so they can come to know and serve Jesus Christ. The small workbooks included in the program ask thought-provoking questions that ignite group discussions and help to foster a hunger for learning God's Word. Participants who complete the program receive their very own copy of the Bible.
Cook County jail chaplains utilize their Project Philip training to establish small group Bible studies. They invite inmates to join the Bible study, help them to complete the 12-week Bible study course, and offer guidance to those wanting a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Later, the chaplain trains the new believers in the Project Philip Bible study methods. He encourages them to share their testimonies and the Bible with other inmates with the goal of growing the Bible study group.
"Project Philip, has been a tremendous blessing in my life," says Raul, another Cook County jail inmate. "And now, I am in need of prayer that God will give me the words to speak to other inmates to help lead them to Christ."
Forbes reports that America has a jail crisis. It lists Illinois' Cook County jails as one of the 10 largest jail jurisdiction in the US, joining counties in Los Angeles, New York, Arizona, Philadelphia, Miami, Dallas, California, and Tennessee. Additionally, a recently released report from Pew Research Center shared the United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the developed world, with approximately 2.3 million men and women behind bars.
"All types of people are filling up cells here in the US and worldwide," says Dan Obinger, Chief Operations Officer of Bible League International's Africa/Americas Division. "From the local homeless man brought in on trespassing, to the drug addict, the prostitute, murderer, and government official caught embezzling funds, to the man in a small village who has stolen a loaf a bread to feed his family. Each and every one of them needs Jesus. And Bible League International is working with ministry partners in the US and worldwide to get them the Word of God so they can meet Jesus. Only Jesus can transform their lives for eternity. Only Jesus can set them free from sin."
Bible League International works with ministry partners to share God's Word with inmates around the globe, holding true to its mission of providing God's Word to those who need it most. Through the partnership with Chicago Bible Society alone-where Bible League International provides Project Philip training to jail chaplains and Chicago Bible Society provides materials for the program-more than 1,000 inmates have learned more about Jesus.
"Project Philip has had a greater impact on jail inmates than any program that we have worked with," says Ken Oliver, Executive Director of Chicago Bible Society who manages reporting for the program. "To have inmates at one of the nation's most notorious jails eager to engage with God's Word through Bible study can only be attributed to God's grace."
While the program statistics show the Project Philip program is making a difference, the testimonies reflect lives changed by God's Word.
"If I only knew then what I know now, my life would be so much different," explains Alba, another Cook County jail inmate. "But, I thank the Lord for this opportunity to know Him and change my life forever. Thank you, Lord, for Project Philip."