Published March 24, 2015
Paducah—Freedom Forever Ministries celebrated its 15th anniversary this month, but it did so without its longest-serving volunteer.
Lee Rust started the women's prison ministry in 2000 after praying for a way to help women in prison and being approached by a chaplain to start the work. Four years later, Sue Evans began volunteering with the ministry, leading small groups in jails and prisons across the state.
Evans passed away suddenly March 16 at Lourdes Hospital in Paducah.
"Heaven has gained a woman who simply cannot be duplicated," Rust wrote for Evans' funeral. "It was a privilege and honor to work alongside Sue as she walked the talk of Christ's love and grace to all those she touched."
The Freedom Forever Ministries anniversary celebration March 17 quickly turned into a memorial for Evans with volunteers recalling memories of her service and friendship.
"Interestingly (Evans' passing) happened at the same time we were having the (anniversary) celebration, and I almost think she planned it (that way)," Rust said with a laugh.
For years Lee and Evans, along with the many other volunteers, have gone to McCracken County Jail, West Kentucky Correctional Complex and Kentucky Correctional Institute for Women in Pewee Valley, teaching the women in those facilities about Christ.
Vickie Wurth is one of those volunteers. She also works as an administrative assistant for Freedom Forever Ministries. She said she's seen change in the many women she has talked with since she began working with the ministry in November.
"I feel that the inmates are a forgotten people," Wurth said. "And that anything that you do for them they are most appreciative, and it just makes you feel good to go into the prison and to know that they need what we're giving them which is Jesus."
Wurth says after a "Good Grief" session she was a part of at one of the prisons, an inmate thanked her and said she wouldn't have heard about Jesus if she had never been incarcerated.
Freedom Forever Ministries isn't tied to one denomination, although Rust, who does the teaching, is a longtime member of First Baptist Church of Paducah. She says many of her volunteers are Baptist, but not all. In fact, Wurth attends St. John's Catholic Church, but she is happy that the ministry is an opportunity for people who believe in Christ—no matter their denomination—to share the gospel.
"It is a good thing," Wurth said. "Us Christians are going to have to stick together."
Freedom Forever Ministries continues to teach and pray with the inmates. Volunteers also encourage the women to memorize Scripture with a points system similar to AWANA. With those points the women can either use them as money in their commissary or for items like lined paper or candy that the ministry brings periodically.
If people desire to honor the longtime volunteer Sue Evans' life they are encouraged to give to Freedom Forever Ministries. Her family is asking all donations go to the ministry. (WR)
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