Onesimus Ministries was started in May of 1982 by Rev. William Twine to provide Christian ministry to men incarcerated in Norfolk City Jail. In 1984 the Onesimus Training Center was opened in Chesapeake Va. to provide a residence for ex-offenders being released from prison. In 1995 two additional residences were added in Virginia Beach Va. to provide additional transitional assistance.
The name Onesimus comes from the New Testament book of Philemon. Onesimus was a runaway slave who ended up in jail and encountered the Apostle Paul, who shared the good news of Christ with him. Following his conversion, Paul wrote a letter on behalf of Onesimus, entreating his former master Philemon to accept him back into the community; not as a slave, but as a brother in Christ. The name Onesimus is a Greek word meaning "useful."
To provide ministry to those that are incarcerated.
To provide aftercare ministry to those released from jail or prison.
To provide ministry to the families of those incarcerated.
Many inmates leave prison as Christians and have a strong desire to participate in a Christian based aftercare program where they can develop relationships with other believers and continue to grow in faith. They need to know that they have a place in the body of Christ, where they are accepted, loved and nurtured.
Why should the community be concerned about the aftercare of ex-offenders?
In the United States, approximately 1,600 people will leave state and federal prisons every day. Most will start their journey back into society with "gate money" ($20 - $200), a one-way bus ticket and little else. Many will be drug abusers who received no treatment for their addictions, sex-ofenders who received no counseling and illiterate high school drop-outs who took no classes, and acquired no job skills.
Only about 13 percent of prisoners will have participated in any kind of pre-release program to prepare them for life outside of prison. Nearly 25 percent will be released with no supervision. Nearly two-thirds will return to just a few metropolitan areas in their states where they will be further concentrated in struggling neighborhoods that can ill-afford accomodate them.
Almost all prisoners get out eventually. What happens when they do, however, is not a topic that has held the interest of legislators who passed mandatory sentencing laws, abolished parole boards and eliminated funding for prisoner education and training. As a result, prison sentences have grown longer, while prisons have done nothing to prepare inmates for life outside of prison. A study sponsored by the Virginia Department of Correctional Education tracked recidivism rates for inmates who had pursued an education, and found the rate was 59 percent lower than those who had not. Ironically, even as the evidence in favor of such programs mounts, willingness and capacity to fund them continues to shrink.
Ex-offenders leaving prison have cause to fear the wrath of "free-world" residents, much like Onesimus had cause to fear his former master. In a society that casts a jaundiced eye toward the "usual suspects," men with limited job skills, who are trying to rebuild their lives with few resources can relate to Onesimus' situation.
Paul urged Philemon to accept Onesimus as a brother in Christ. Onesimus Ministries urges people to help ex-offenders get a fair shot at rebuilding their lives. Onesimus Ministries began as one man ministering to men in a city jail. It has grown to include two residency locations, a bus ministry and other outreach efforts to people with criminal convictions. With a waiting list of 6-12 months for acceptance into the training center, the need is great and growing greater.
Onesimus Ministries tries to help with the critical issue of post-incarceration transition of prisoners back into society. In the name of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior of us all, we hope and pray that you will support our efforts in this ministry of mercy and hope.