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Setting '05 spiritual goals


Helping their congregations develop a deeper understanding of and friendship with God is a goal local religious organizations hope to accomplish in the new year.

And, after those members have grown in their faith, the goal is to help them minister to others so that they can pass it on.

Within the Christian Jail Ministry, a nonprofit organization that since 1979 has helped inmates at the Howard County Detention Center, the mission is constant.

"We recognize that the one who can change a person's heart is Jesus, and we want to introduce him to any inmate willing to listen," said the Rev. Guy R. Nichols, lead chaplain and executive director of the organization.

Nichols said that the organization ministers to men and women in a variety of ways, including worship services, Bible studies and correspondence courses, and Christian 12-step programs that help counter substance abuse.

He said that the ministry makes a difference in whether an inmate returns to jail after being released.

"About 80 percent of those who are not intensely involved [in the Christian Jail Ministry] return to jail," he said. But former inmates who connect to a "good church" after they've been released do better in society, he added.

"We really do see some changes in their attitudes," Nichols said.

God's Trucking Ministry of Jessup also aims to reach people.

"We minister to the truck drivers and encourage them," said the Rev. Charles Hopkins, who spent 40 years as a trucker before he retired. "They often don't have a chance to get to church."

The ministry involves religious services, Bible studies, fellowship and counseling opportunities at a trailer at the T/A Baltimore South truck stop in Jessup.

Hopkins said 81 truckers developed a relationship with Christ during the year.

He said that the ministry does not set specifics but maintains its overall goal of helping truckers become Christians.

He said that, depending on their schedules, some truckers pick up materials for the road, while others stay for services.

At Mount Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Church in Columbia, the Rev. Donald Smedley said the theme for the next two years at his church is "From Membership to Discipleship: As We Impact, Impart, Impale Our Homes, Our Church and Our Community."

"We have made ministry a showboat, and by becoming a disciple, we'll see the seriousness of our ministry," he said.

Discipleship classes have begun at Mount Pisgah and will continue until everyone in the church has had an opportunity to participate, Smedley said.

He added that the goal is to get church members, after they have attended the classes, to have an impact in their homes, at church and in the community.

"We hope that they start with their friends and relatives," Smedley said.

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