In 1907, shortly after Florence Crawford moved to Portland, she visited the sheriff at the Multnomah County Jail and asked permission to hold services there. He told her, “You do not know what you are asking. We have at least twelve murderers behind bars here.” She answered, “I do know what I am talking about. I have conducted meetings in the Los Angeles County Jail where there were twenty-five or thirty murderers at a time behind the bars. You can call the sheriff in Los Angeles if you wish.” He said, “You go upstairs and make arrangements with the jailer for some meetings.” Since that time, church members have regularly held services in correctional institutions, at times contacting over 500 inmates in one day through the prison meetings.
Selected groups who visit these institutions include a minister, musicians, and other Christian workers. Each service is a musical program interspersed with personal testimonies telling of the deliverance the workers found when they surrendered their lives to God. The service ends with a brief message from the Word of God, and then inmates have an opportunity to give prayer requests. These are brought to the church members who gather for prayer before every service.
Over the years, prison officials around the country have expressed their appreciation for the efforts made by the Apostolic Faith organization for the prisoners in their care. One time when the visitation team apologized for taking a warden away from his meal, he told them, “I would gladly give up a meal to help you out because of the good that you people are doing here.”
These prison outreach efforts have been rewarding. Men and women have been saved and truly delivered from evil habits and behaviors that had bound them for years. On several occasions, the message of hope brought to men behind bars resulted in the conversion of notorious prisoners who were awaiting execution. While on death row, they were truly converted and wrote wonderful letters telling of the marvelous transformation in their lives, and their readiness to step into eternity to meet their Maker. Converted prisoners live clean and honest lives, and are witnesses before their fellow prisoners of the change that has taken place within their souls.