Penitentiary and County Jail Ministries

We believe that God has given His churches a commission to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and in all places so that there might be a great multitude from every nation, tribe, ethnic and language group who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

We also believe that all evangelistic endeavors should be carried on under the authority of a local Church; that it is the responsibility of each Baptist Church to carry out the great commission as each is led of the Lord.

EBT has been involved in ministering inside correctional facilities in Sioux Falls, SD since 1974. Pastors McCandless and Tottingham have ministered in several prisons in other states also. Pastor Tottingham has ministered inside the state penitentiaries at Joliet, Illinois; Jackson, Michigan; Clarksdale, Mississippi; Jamestown, North Dakota, Springfield and Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Rawlins, Wyoming including two death rows. He has also ministered inside the very large Cook County Jail (Chicago), Illinois and a much, much smaller Minnehaha County Jail, Sioux Falls, SD. For some time he held an "unescorted" ID card with a Federal Prison Camp in Yankton, SD and held services there several times.

In these 30 years EBT has seen countless men make attempts at correcting their lives but with many religions offered to these inmates many are wrongly directed with pseudosalvation and a host of other non-biblical teachings. But to the good we have seen many who've served their time and have not returned but made a new life for themselves. It came, however, only with hard work to change old habits, old thinking, old hangouts, old relationships, etc. Most inmates, family members and pastors do not realize that the more time inside, the more institutionalized one becomes, and the less decisions are made by themselves until that part of their lives is numbed. Once they hit the street the ability to make even small decisions like "What would you like for dinner?" has left them and they are very subject to someone else making even small decisions for them. If they do not surround themselves with godly persons, it very often leads many right back into incarceration.

Over the years our ministry has seen some inmates achieve great victories. The first such victory always remains a memory marker and that was an inmate in the 1980s who we worked with a couple of years before he got out. Our church was able to get involved with his family over a year prior to his release and was able to give them a family environment; today he is a remarkable citizen in a southern state.

We have seen such success with several others and have been able to follow their success since their release. We have some presently in our church serving very faithfully, married and with families. We have tried to get those who did not remain in our city into a sound church environment and in a church, which would spiritually adopt them and be a family to them to their success.

What about those "lifers", those who are incarcerated for life? We've also been able to enter their lives and see many, yes many, receive Christ and make our "Bible classes" their church and Bible college. We've witnessed them grow in the Lord and His truth until they become matured Christians and very soul conscious and effective witnesses to both inmates and officers. We also have been able to work with some of their families giving them the gospel and making life-long friends. We've been able to offer them a homey church family when they are here visiting their loved one in prison. We've gotten photos, helped see that packages, money, etc., got to them through the system as some have needed to mail things to us for us to deliver to the penitentiary mailroom for the loved one.

Our state penitentiary purchased a baptismal tank for us to baptize in (immersion), which we do after some thorough doctrinal training. As a consequence, we've baptized many over the years. Of those most remain faithful to the Lord. The associate warden who authorized the purchase asked if he might witness our first few baptisms, as he, being a Lutheran, had never seen an immersion. He had a clear testimony of salvation but was unclear from that point on.

Some we've reached were being held here from other states and after being returned to their home state penitentiary they remained faithful and write regularly back to us. What a ministry ministering to the imprisoned is and what a genuine blessing these have been to everyone here who has graduated the South Dakota Corrections Academy or who just joins us for services now and again. Some even have become regular visitors to inmates when they needed "family". This is one ministry EBT praises the Lord for leading us into these 30 years now. It all began when Pastor Tottingham wanted to give some of himself away to someone who he thought he could not gain from financially or by their attendance at church. But, oh how we all have gained from this ministry! It has been awesome to watch these give their hearts to the Lord, then serve Him. What reward, what joy!
EBT Ministries Other Ministries
  • South Dakota Psalm
  • Unaffiliated Baptist Churches of America