By Sarah Wilson
A group of 50-60 local businessmen including bankers, real estate agents and small business owners routinely spend time in jail… completely by choice.
The group, called Salt and Light, is made up of local Christians of multiple denominations. They go to prisons and spend up to four days with the residents, preaching the word and trying to bring the prisoners to Christ. Salt and Light has recently held these seminars in Louisville and Noxubee County and will be visiting the Lowndes County Juvenile Detention Center in the coming weeks.
According to Robert Rhett of Columbus, who is an active participant in Salt and Light and a realtor at Rhett Real Estate, the group saw a need to reach out to those in prison and teach them about God’s love and forgiveness. Many of the Salt and Light participants had been involved in Kairos Prison Ministry, an international organization that operates in over 350 prisons worldwide and has been operating since 1976. Salt and Light and Kairos both welcome attendees of all faiths.
“These guys drop their businesses and go to prison for four days,” he said. And we don’t want anything from it. We just want to show them that they’re loved despite their mistakes and that they’re worth something. When you’re told that by a stranger, it means something.”
Salt and Light is named after the Bible verse Matthew 5: 13-16 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
“From that day forward, many have answered the call of Christ’s original charge to become Salt and Light. We believe it is our King’s original ministry,” said a Salt and Light member who wished to go unnamed.
“When we look at Matthew 25:31-46, known as the sheep and goat judgment, he tells us how we will be divided as the sheep are from the goats,” he said. “The criteria he uses to divide us is clearly our individual outreach to the hungry, the thirsty, to strangers, the naked, the sick and those in prison. There are those among us who believe so strongly in this teaching of our King that, by our own free will and accord, we choose to serve our fellow man.”
He added that Salt and light is not an organization or affiliated with a specific church. “We are men and women of diversified social and economic backgrounds who come together with the desire to affect the lives of all mankind in a positive way. We take people as we find them, in their current condition, and through understanding and loving interactions gently lead them to a better path and higher quality of life by revealing our Father”s truths. Put simply, we want be the hands and feet of Jesus.”
Rhett got involved with Salt and Light after attending several Kairos Prison Ministry walks to Mississippi State Penitentiary, also known as Parchman.
“It’s not state funded,” explained Rhett. “In fact, we pay to go. It’s funded solely by the guys going. We pay about $150 per casino online man to attend.”
Rhett explained that the program accepts 48 prisoners, chosen by the Warden, who usually picks the “worst of the worst.” “We get the very very violent, the gang leaders,” he said. “We try to teach them that they’re forgiven. The majority of the guys feel like society has cast them away and wants nothing to do with them.”
“We’ve had several gang leaders denounce their thrones while we’re there, which is unheard of,” he said. “It’s blood in, blood out with those guys and to see a gang leader stand up and say ‘I denounce my throne’ is just amazing.”
About 15 men or “free-worlders” attend to council the 48 prisoners. Everyone stays in the gym together, and the volunteers cook all the food for the retreat.
Rhett said he was terrified the first time he went to the prison to minister. “I always stayed at the table when we let out for breaks. The other guys teased me, but I was not about to go out into the Yard with all those prisoners.”
After a few trips though, he settled in and said he came to see the men and just men.
“I’ve probably done some worse things than many of them are in there for,” he said. Rhett uses his testimony to reach the prisoners and try to rehabilitate them. He has even helped some of the men he’s sponsored on walks find employment after they are released.
“We minister to the residents of these facilities where we share how the enemy has cleverly disguised his counterfeits for God’s real blessings in our lives. We teach them to overcome the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony (Rev. 12:11),” said a Salt and Light representative.
Salt and Light also sponsors a 40 week Bible study for prisoners called LifeLink. If they participate and pass the tests involved, they can receive time off their sentences. The study is not “necessarily Biblical,” according to Rhett, but puts Bible principals into everyday life.
“It’s more addicting than any drug when you see God working right in front of your eyes,” said Rhett. “Once you’re a part of it, you can’t get enough. When we tell them on the third night that we pay to come, they look at us like we’re stupid, but we come out of it feeling guilty… we actually get the bigger blessing for doing it.”
Rhett said Salt and Light branched off of Kairos to be able to follow the mission without the regimented nature of the international organization.
“We’re all a bunch of black sheep,” he joked. “We wanted to just let God lead us.”
he group also serves the local community in other ways if they feel called. They have done a fish fry benefit for a cancer patient and occasionally set up shop somewhere with a grill and a boom box and pass out food. “If God shows us a need and the group feels it, we just go out and do it. We don’t ask for permission,” said Rhett. “We’ll go down to Fuqua’s and pass out burgers and ask people what we can pray for them for.”
To find out more about Salt and Light, to donate supplies, or to get involved, call Robert Rhett at 662-549-1004.
By Sarah Wilson