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What's New With COTAAN Archives

COTAAN Shares Encouragement at Thanksgiving. Minister Kathryn Johnson, Program Director visited the Lake County Correctional Facility to deliver a token of encouragement to a woman being released from jail during the Thanksgiving Holiday season. Members of Covenant Baptist Church donated funds to purchase a Giant Eagle Gift Card to assist a returning citizen, and her family,as she reenters the community. Pictured are Captain Cynthia Brooks receiving the donation from Min. Johnson.

Highlights from the American Baptist Women's Ministries' National Conference: "For I was in Prison and You Visited Me: Prison and Aftercare Ministries" - Virtual Mission Encounter, November 4th-8th, 2013. The intent of the Virtual Mission Encounter was to help one to better understand the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of incarcerated persons, those returning to communities after being incarcerated, and their families. Women from throughout the Nation were represented.

The Conference opened on Monday with a presentation offered by Rev. Julia Moses, Associate Minister, Church of The Master. Rev. Moses shared her extensive experience working as the director of a youth detention center. She also offered suggestions on how to prevent youth incarceration.

COTAAN Volunteer, Miriam Grady was the featured facilitator on Tuesday, November 4th 2013 where she presented a workshop entitled "Prison Ministry". Sister Grady shared her experiences from both sides of the bars. As a "returned citizen", Miriam offered a unique perspective of having to cope with such things as being at the mercy of male guards who are dealing with anger issues, financial limitations for toiletry items, issues of female sexuality, and too few chaplains for the number of incarcerated persons.

According to Sis. Grady, congregations looking to minister to the incarcerated can do several specific things:

  • Share the Christian values of love, forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration
  • Create social networks for returning women to become a part of
  • Encourage returning women by letting them know they are not alone.
Finally, Sister Grady shared that her personal goal is to help women returning from incarceration move from being "Victims to Volunteers to Victors".

On Wednesday, The Reverend Fela Barrueto, National Coordinator, Prison Reentry and Aftercare Ministry Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Services, facilitated the workshop entitled "Family Care and After Release".

Rev. Fela addressed the impact of incarceration and the criminal justice system on the children left behind. According to Rev. Fela, it is vitally important to maintain the parent child relationship during the period of incarceration.

The Church can help by adopting families within their own congregations. Rev. Fela shared that if each congregation would touch "2 people about to be incarcerated, 2 people returning home, and 6 people currently incarcerated" every inmate could be cared for.

  • Congregations can minister to the incarcerated and their families by: Encouraging children to keep a journal they can share with their incarcerated parent
  • Assist children to send cards (holiday, birthday, special occasion), drawings, etc. to their incarcerated parent
  • Provide transportation to a family seeking to visit their incarcerated loved one
  • Donate "Mom Baskets" for women who are pregnant and incarcerated
  • Provide mentoring ministries designed to assist with the process of restoration and reconciliation

Rev. Dr. Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, Director of the Office on Crime and Justice at Mennonite Central Committee U.S. was Thursday's workshop facilitator, addressing the ministry of "Restorative Justice". Dr. Stutzman Amstutz shared the need to provide outlets for communication between victims and offenders. The intended goal is to provide opportunities of hope that can set the stage for forgiveness and redemption.

The Rev. Sandra Hasenauer, Assistant Executive Director, ABWM facilitated the group discussion following each night's presentation. Congratulations to Rev. Hasenauer and Virginia Holmstrom, Executive Director, ABWM for a successful event!

ABC/USA Chaplains minister to incarcerated women at the Mission Summit 2013

 Shepastor: “Ministering to the Least of These,” A Testimony and Challenge From Rev. Monica Harmon, Chaplain.”

"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,” Luke 4:18 NIV

A few weeks ago, I had an intriguing conversation with Rev. Monica Harmon, an Associate Minister at Antioch Baptist Church, Cleveland, Ohio and a community chaplain. She shared with me her 

experience of visiting a women’s prison in Topeka, Kansas during the American Baptist Biennial. Particularly striking was her story involving a young woman whose mother, sister and two brothers were all incarcerated. The woman, her mother and sister were all located at the same prison. This tragedy compelled me to ask Rev. Monica about her thoughts as she reflected upon this jarring experience. Below is her response…

The Five C’s

Tasha Cobbs, has the hottest new single “Break Every Chain.” This war cry is really an intercession for captives to be set free. Today we must continue to intercede for the least of these. Some of us may never go behind prison walls. You need to ask yourself why or why not? We have distanced ourselves from this reality for the least of these who find themselves serving time for one reason or another. My experience at the Topeka Correctional Institute is related to the Five C’s; challenge, call, communication, compassion and commitment. Recently, The American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministries invited ABC Chaplains for a two day training. Included in the training was an invitation to participate in a trip to Topeka Correctional Institute. While I was not excited about the idea, I decided to participate with the plan. As a result I was changed forever.

The U.S. criminal justice system challenges us to deal with the millions who are incarcerated. We are challenged to deal with the millions of children who are affected by their parent(s) being incarcerated. We are challenged, as Dr. Michelle Alexander states in her book, The New Jim Crow,” by legalized discrimination, demonization and criminalization of black men and women. We are challenged by those who believe justice is blind and everyone gets a fair trial. We are challenged by those who say social justice is no longer an issue.

We are called in Isaiah 61:1 and Luke 4:18 to set those who are captives free.
We are called to give them the good news. We are called to visit them according to Matthew 25:35-46. You and I have a responsibility to be our brothers’ keeper. You may say, “He is not my brother.” He may not be your brother, but he or she is somebody’s brother or sister. Where is your brother? Cain responded to the Lord, “Am I my brothers’ keeper?” If not you, then who? We can no longer look for others to do for us, what we must do for ourselves.

We must begin to dialogue with those behind bars. When I heard those women’s stories I was amazed as to how they make it from day to day. Many are serving life sentences. We have to become active listeners. We need to hear their stories. We need to find out who is looking after their children. The most important part of any relationship is communication. Without communication there is no relation.

We need compassion in order to reach those behind bars who society has forgotten. I admit it, I had forgotten about women in prison until I was able to put a name with a face on them. Compassion was the key that kept me that day. It was not my love for them, but God’s divine love that enabled me to listen- listen without judgment. God is our only judge.

In order for change to take place in our society we must be committed to the least of these. We must be willing to open ourselves in order to be committed to changing what has become an epidemic. Wake up American. Wake up. We have been asleep too long. It is time to wake up. Where are the Drum Majors for Justice?

Michelle Alexander’s work, The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, is a wake-up call for us all. I strongly urge you to read it!

Rev. Monica Harmon, Chaplain

The Rev. Monica Harmon, chaplain at Crossroads Hospice in Cleveland, Ohio and an Associate Minister at Antioch Baptist Church, talks about her June visit to Topeka Correctional Facility with American Baptist chaplains and pastoral counselors, sponsored by American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling Ministries.

Click Here to hear the Podcast Interview of Rev. Monica Harmon.

COTAAN Delivers Holiday Encouragement on Thanksgiving at the Lake County Correctional Facility

COTAAN Volunteer, Miriam Grady facilitates a workshop as part of the American Baptist Women's National Conference: "For I was in Prison and You Visited Me: Prison and Aftercare Ministries" - Virtual Mission Encounter, November 4th-8th, 2013

Reverend Monica Harmon, Associate Minister, Antioch Baptist Church, Cleveland, Ohio shares her story of ministering to women in a Topeka, Kansas prison during the ABCUSA 2013 Mission Summit.

Read full story on What's New With COTAAN page

COTAAN Featured at the Cleveland Baptist Association Spring Meeting...

Minister Kathy Johnson, Program Director will be a workshop presenter for the COTAAN Ministry at the 2013 Cleveland Baptist Association Annual Spring Meeting. This year's meeting will take place on May 4, 2013 at the Beachwood Hilton/Double Tree Hotel in Beachwood, Ohio.

The theme for the event is "Faith Assistance in Transition and Healing", the scriptural reference is 2 Corinthians 1:4, and the guest speaker is Rev. Darren A. Ferguson, Senior Pastor, Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, Averne (Far Rockaway), NY.

New Support Partner...

Thank you to the American Baptist Home Mission Societies, World Relief Committee - One Great Hour of Sharing. Your generous support is a great blessing that will help transform the lives of women and girls as they return home from incarceration.

COTAAN holds Bible Study at the Lake County Jail...

COTAAN is now engaging incarcerated women at the Lake County Jail, Painesville, Ohio in monthly Bible Study. Bible Studies are held on the third Friday of every month. Strongholds are breaking as we study the Word of God.

COTAAN Joins the Lake County Reentry Coalition...

COTAAN recently united with the Lake County Reentry Coalition. The mission of the Reentry Coalition is "to ensure successful offender reentry, reduce recidivism and enhance public safety. The Reentry Coalition will achieve these goals through collaborative partnerships with government entities, faith and community-based organizations and other stakeholders".

COTAAN is moving swiftly towards our launch. Our classrooms are painted, curriculum is purchased, partners are coming aboard with excitement and support, and God has provided COTAAN, through the generosity of a Covenant Baptist Church member, with a van for transportation!

Pastor Smith shared the following regarding our new van...

"We have been praying for a van for several years now. Many potential program participants lack transportation. Being in a position to provide a ride to participants expands our ability to reach more people. We praise God for the generosity of our church member who saw the need and gave from her heart." 

Now, we are recruiting program participants! If you know of someone who would benefit from the COTAAN program, feel free to call 440-585-7350, email us at [email protected] or send us your information on the "Contact Us" page.

God bless you for your support of COTAAN.

Minister Kathryn R. Johnson

COTAAN Program Director

COTAAN attends the American Baptist Women's National Conference in Nashville, TN...

In July 2012, Program Director, Kathryn Johnson received a scholarship to attend, and Covenant Baptist Church Senior Pastor, Rev. Christine Smith was asked to present COTAAN to the delegates at the American Bapstist Women's National Conference in Nashville, TN.

Women from across the United States were present to hear about COTAAN and offer their spiritual and financial support. Pastor Smith was presented with a giant check representing the $4,976.00 donated by ABW women throughout the country.

Check out pictures below from the ABW National Convention...

Pastor Chris, Minister Kathy and Aris (Pastor Chris' 7 year old daughter) show "check" representing monies donated thus far by AB Women

Dr. Ronnie Lanier presides over Holy Communion along with clergywomen from across the country

Minister Kathy (center) stands with other AB Women scholarship recipients

Additional pictures can be viewed by clicking the link below:

COTAAN Ministry presented to AB Women in Nashville...

Also, visit the "In Their Shoes" blog site to read about COTAAN's "Meet and Greet" reception, October 15th, 2012 (click on the link below)

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