FARMINGTON — For some female inmates at the Davis County Jail, the weekly Tree of Life worship is their first introduction to God.
“They don’t know God; they don’t know the Bible,” said Melinda Grant, group leader of the ministry, which meets at the jail twice weekly.
Tree of Life is an outreach ministry of Layton’s Christian Life Center. Grant’s husband Terry Grant leads the men’s group.
The church has conducted the ministry for 21 years. The Grants have been coordinators for the past six years.
Several other faiths also have representatives who visit inmates regularly.
“We talk about love and forgiveness (within the group),” Grant said. “ A lot of these women have unforgiveness in their lives.”
The group is small, limited to 16 women, but participants come from all faith backgrounds, not just an evangelical background, Grant said.
Each session begins with prayer requests, followed by a prayer. Many of the women ask for prayers for their court dates and families. Other requests may be for prayers for their freedom and peace, Grant said.
Following the prayer, the women sing praise songs.
“It’s really touching to hear them sing,” Grant said. “They like to sing and it seems to be something they look forward to.”
Then, they open the Bible and discuss a specific topic. Right now, the women are studying the Gospel of Matthew.
Following a discussion, they view a Christian movie.
Through the years, Grant said she has seen some miracles such as reduced sentences that she believes have been the result of the prayers.
Some women have turned to God. The women are at first often reluctant to participate in the prayers or the praise songs, she said.
However, “the first time they know that they God, they raise their hands during the praise songs. They’re on fire for God. They feel the presence of the Holy Spirit,” Grant said.
Sentences for those incarcerated in jail generally aren’t as long as those incarcerated at the Utah State Prison. While the women remain in jail, Grant encourages them to read the Bible and pray. Many get so they can quote scriptures very well, she said.
Sometimes, Grant sees women who have returned to jail after having been released.
“They tell me they have nothing, they have nowhere to go,” Grant said. “Some are afraid to go out (into the world).”
Even if they’ve lapsed into their old behavior and have been re-arrested, Grant said she welcomes them back into the group.
“You can see these people are not all bad,” Grant said. ‘They’re often a victim of their circumstances.’
While Grant is not allowed to give out personal information such as her telephone number, former inmates have sometimes looked her up to thank her for what she did for them.
“I tell them it’s not me, it’s God. We are just vessels.”