Celebrating God at Work

Day with Dads 2017

Story by UBA Team Writer, Meredith Cook

When one thinks of planting house churches, the prison system may not be the first place that comes to mind. However, that is exactly where UBA Church Consultant Sally Hinzie, her husband Leonard, and a group of volunteers decided to start. They thought the men in the faith based dorm of the Wynne prison unit in Huntsville might be open to the idea. Six years ago, they got permission from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to start training and discipling 30-35 of these men each year.

In November of last year, the Wynne Unit asked Sally and the other volunteers to organize a "Day with Dads" that allows children to spend quality time with their dads. The warden of this unit wanted these kids to be able to bond with their dads. The volunteers provide table games, books to read, and other activities like ping pong, basketball, and relay races. They also provide a pizza lunch and take portraits for the families that participate.

So far, they have organized three of these events, in November 2016, April 2017, and most recently on November 4 of this year. This time, 19 families—a total of 68 people— participated. Many of these families have participated in more than one event and they have had a total of 20 volunteers at one or more of the Days with Dads. Overall, approximately 30-35 families have been able to participate in one or more of the programs.

One volunteer, Mary Ring, was especially helpful in the planning process for the Day with Dads. Mary's counseling experience with Julianna Poor Memorial Counseling Center (Houston's First Baptist Church) was an asset. She shared the protocols and manual the counseling center uses for foster parents and adoptive families to encourage bonding between parent and child. This helped them plan appropriate and helpful activities for the Day with Dads. Mary also spent time training several volunteers prior to the day. While they were initially unsure if what they had to offer would be well-received, it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable days they've had in their counseling experience.

One inmate in particular is thankful for the chance to spend that time with his son, and commits to being on his best behavior so he can continue having this opportunity. Another inmate used the Day with Dads last year to develop a covenant with his 14 year old son, where the son promised to be responsible by keeping his room clean, do his homework, etc. This inmate told Sally later that he was thankful for the chance to parent his son from afar. Mary recalls a touching moment between a dad and his daughter as they danced to music together.

The Day with Dads has provided many great opportunities for family bonding and for children to get to know their dads. As Mary said, God created us to be in relationships, and it was so good to be a part of providing a day for families to experience relationships like what God meant us to have. But more so, these relationships are just a reflection of the saving and fulfilling relationship God's children enjoy with Him.

If you are interested in volunteering in the TDCJ system, contact Sally HInzie, UBA Church Consultant by email.