It’s not uncommon to talk about God protecting our Sheepdogs.  But it’s a little less common to hear about faith when it comes to the people who they arrest.  Especially gang members.

But something powerful has happened in the world of faith… and prison.

A Texas megachurch was allowed to set up a campus on the grounds of a Texas prison to introduce Christianity to inmates there.  Gateway Church was also granted permission to perform baptisms.

They opened up shop at the state’s largest maximum-security prison about six months ago.  There are some 4,200 criminal offenders housed behind bars at Coffield Unit in Anderson County, which is located about 90 miles outside of the Dallas / Fort Worth area.

Last week, the warden there invited Gateway Church to baptize a handful of inmates in administrative segregation, or solitary confinement.

Because of how dangerous those inmates are, they spend 23 hours of their day behind solid, steel doors with air holes in them.

Coffield prison inmates worship at the newest campus of Gateway Church. (Gateway Church Photography)

Coffield prison inmates worshipping at Gateway Church campus. (Courtesy: Gateway Church Photography)

Niles Holsinger is the Gateway Coffield Prison campus pastor.  He told Fox News what he witnessed last Wednesday was “mind-blowing.”

Five of the men were confirmed gang or cartel members.  They were escorted into the gymnasium, shackled hand and foot and around the waist. Correctional officers had to clear the prison because of safety concerns.

“They couldn’t lift their arms above their waist, each one has a guard on each arm, and wouldn’t leave their side until they were in the water,” Holsinger said.

Three of the men were placed on one side and two men on the other side.

A field guard told the pastor it was because they were from rival gangs.  He said the only way for them to leave the gangs or cartels is death.

Prior to the Baptism, Holsinger spoke to each one of the guys – who have an extremely violent history – in solitary confinement.

“I have tried it my way my whole life and it’s gotten me here,” one of the prisoners told him. “I want to try it God’s way…we’re going to come out of the water as new men.”

One by one the men were baptized.

“These guys from two different gangs professed the same Lord and were baptized in the same water together and they walked out together, guards not holding onto their arms anymore because God had done something in their life,” Holsinger said.

He said it’s what he saw afterward that shocked him.  According to Holsinger, each of the inmates, dripping with water and fully clothed, was trembling in fear.

“These guys literally know they’re putting their life at risk and they’re doing it anyway,” the campus pastor said. “Never one time in my life have I felt like my decision to follow Christ has put me in danger or discomfort…for these guys to come in and they were so humble and gentle…to see them walking out trembling, they maybe been afraid for their life not knowing what would happen, but they did not regret the decision they had just made. That was mind-blowing to me.”

In July, the remaining 14 prisoners in solitary confinement will be baptized.

In a partnership with the local radio station, KCBI, the church is also planning on taking several thousand Bibles to supply the prison for individual and new inmates.

By the beginning of 2020, Gateway plans to launch six more prison campuses throughout Texas.

Author Note:

Earlier this year, I wrote an article titled “Why Cops Pray More Than You”.

It’s been my experience and is my belief that the hand of God is at work every single day, having an impact on those who serve and protect… whether they realize it or not.

In case you missed it – here’s that story

Through tears, Micah recounted the day he responded to a 9-1-1 call and found a young boy accidentally hanging in the shower on a Soap-On-A-Rope.

The grandfather was crying desperately.  It was the first time the boy’s parents had gone on a date in years… because his mom was terrified something bad would happen if they did.

Danny told me about the body of the baby he found.  He also shared the story about running into a burning building – as a police officer and without fire gear – to save the lives of children.  Danny is a father.

Brandon told me about the guy he caught on the way to kidnap, torture and murder his pregnant girlfriend.

Jessie told me about the day a terrorist shot him at point blank range through his patrol car window while he sat at a red light.

For so many… it’s all too easy to allow the darkness in the world to take over.

But we need to remember that those who hold the Thin Blue Line are those who fight to keep that evil and that darkness at bay.

Not all of them pray. But for the many that do… their prayers are fierce.  And often selfless.

When they pray for safety… they are asking God to bring them home to their loved ones so that spouses aren’t widowed and children aren’t burying a parent.

They are praying for the recovery of victims.

They are praying for strength to get out of bed every day.  To turn off the TV when the media paints them in a negative spotlight. When protestors demand the removal of “pigs” and “killers”.

They are thanking God for the stranger who bought them a coffee or for the opportunity to have saved a life or even just touched one that day.

They are asking for patience.  For clarity. For support in the battle against the demons of post traumatic stress that they and their brothers and sisters face.

When you are in church, you have the luxury of focuses on the service.  The music.  The family.

Our Sheepdog don’t have that luxury.  Because they are often thinking about the unseen threat facing their parish.  Their family.  Their community.

Yes, chances are the police officer that you’ve broken bread with prays harder than you.

Perhaps it’s time for us to pray a little harder for THEM.  What do we have to lose?