Breaking the Chains: Female residents find guidance through chapel service at Jackson County Jail

BROWNSTOWN Jess Moss knew in her heart that she needed to find a way to help those better their future after hearing about a former coworker who was found deceased behind 84 Lumber in Seymour.

Finding inspiration through the Bible story of Lazarus rising from the dead that she read that day, she felt it was her duty to do the hard work and go where others would not.

She began delivering basic supplies to homeless camps around town, and then in August, she served with a program called Residents Encounter Christ.

After spending a full weekend inside the Jackson County Jail in Brownstown with the residents, Moss said she felt a call from God to start a church service for the female residents. She shared her idea with a family friend, Russ Sutton, and jail Lt. Dave Ridlen, who went to Sheriff Rick Meyer and jail Commander Chris Everhart on her behalf.

By November, she was allowed to host her own chapel services, and Resurrected Ministry was born. They are now four months into providing this service to the female residents at the jail and have a ministry team made up of 15 to 20 women from three different counties and several churches.

“The Chapel wouldn’t look the way it does without this team and their hearts that love God and love people,” Moss said.

The Chapel follows a nondenominational approach with Kaitlin Harrell of Zenas Baptist Church leading the worship on guitar, Jennifer Ridlen assisting in worship, Liberty Mahoney assisting the music and Lisa Davis helping with technology.

Resurrected Ministry held a service this past Sunday at the jail. The service begins with an offering, allowing staff and residents the opportunity to voice any hurts, habits and character defects that need work or any prayer requests. Residents and staff members then write down their offering and exchange it with someone else. Then throughout the week, they lift the offerings up in prayer.

After worship and the offering, Moss gives the message for the Sunday service. She said the female residents are currently learning what it looks like to be a disciple of God.

Moss’ message to the women was focused on not letting negative words from their past define them, and every time they share their story, they break the chains from the past.

“Through the word, they are learning to live a new life different from everything they’ve ever known. They’re learning to react like Jesus no matter what life throws their way, displaying self-control and gaining the other fruits of the spirit, like gentleness, love, joy, peace, goodness, faithfulness, kindness and forbearance,” Moss said.

She said she isn’t the only one seeing improvements among these women. Jail staff and residents have said instead of arguments leading to fights in the pods, the arguments are being dissolved.

“Each week, I’m seeing a new level of brokenness, as those once tough exteriors are being shed,” Moss said. “I’m also seeing ladies who were determined to get out and head straight back to their old lives now decide to seek a fresh start. Now, they’re doing all they can from the inside to get into work release, transitional housing and even the programs available at Anchor House.”

Moss said in the past, these women would leave the jail with no job, no money, an undesirable record and end up back to what got them in trouble in the first place.

Now, however, she sees these women wanting to make a change and better their future.

After Moss’ message, the women had the opportunity to share their testimony with a team member in a one-on-one setting to share any struggles they are currently facing and ask for prayers. Many of the female residents shared their thoughts on how this program has helped them in their lives.

Christina Pelston, a female resident at the jail, said this program has helped her find peace and taught her how to react differently in situations that cause stress.

“Jess is someone we can look up to, and this program is something I look forward to every time we have it,” she said.

Tammy Schwind, another female resident, said the program has helped her overcome her fears.

“This program gave me peace and the knowledge to help me resist the cravings that an addiction can have on you,” she said.

Kayla Harding, another female resident, said she enjoys the music and the judgment-free environment.

“I feel accepted here with these women, and I don’t feel like I am being judged,” she said.

Michelle Rose said the program relieves the stress of being incarcerated, and she enjoys her time learning more about living a faithful life.

“I love this program, especially the music,” she said. “I feel like this program has given me a second chance, and I look forward to using that in the future.”

This was Brittany Osbourne’s first time attending the program, and she said she enjoys sharing her testimony and receiving advice from the other team members.

“I like this program so far. These women choose to do this for us, and I like that because it makes us feel like we are not forgotten,” she said.

Kelli Cravens, another female resident, said programs like these have saved her. After fighting and surviving cancer twice, she trusts in God’s guidance and is glad she gets to share that with the other women in the jail.

“I hope these girls find the same trust in God that I have, and I want to lead more women into programs like this one,” she said.

Brandi Davis wrote a poem about her past and how she has been saved by God to make a change in her life. She hopes to inspire others with her writing and faith in God.

“This program helps women ignite their faith and gives them the tools to go out there and make a better future,” Davis said.

Each week, about 15 to 20 residents attend the Sunday service, and Moss said she is amazed by the turnout because the women are not required to attend but choose to so do.

Moss said she hopes this program gives them the start to their own recovery journeys as she shares her own for inspiration.

Moss’ recovery journey started June 19, 2019, which is now recognized as Juneteenth, the national day of freedom. Her journey has inspired many of the female residents to follow a similar path and live a life with Christ.

Moss was a substance user for more than 20 years and said she has lost belongings more times than she cared to admit. While she never served time behind bars, she spent a lot of time on the other side of glass as her siblings were in and out of jail often since she was 17.

Now at 42 years old and 43 months in recovery, she hopes her story inspires others to break the temptations of addiction and find peace in praising God.

At 31 days sober, Moss was woken at 6 a.m. by builders next door and decided to attend Cornerstone Community Church, where she felt welcomed by the community.

“No one judged me. In fact, they embraced me. It’s because of their love for God and people and everything they’ve poured into my life these last three and a half years that I am where I am today,” Moss said.

At 14 months sober, Moss took an online discipleship class that helped her mature as a person and love God even more. She also helped with Enter His Courts, a program that teaches and encourages the gospel of Jesus Christ through basketball, for three seasons with Tim Goodpaster.

Now, as the chaplain for Resurrected Ministry, she devotes her time and love to the female residents at the Jackson County Jail, leading them to trust and believe in the guidance of God.

“My most favorite part are the moments I get to speak life into these ladies,” she said. “As they accept Christ, they begin to know who they are because they now know who they are. They are so loved that they were worth dying for just as they are, messy and all. I know that God plans to give them hope and a future.”