STOCKTON, Mo. – In January 1993, Stockton native Randall Hayward began visiting two local jails in Stockton and Greenfield to minister to the prisoners and teach them about the Bible. 28 years later, Hayward operates a statewide non-profit providing Bibles, religious teachings and studies to thousands of Missouri prisoners every year.
On October 18, 1993, Hayward went into a jail that he had never visited before and brought 22 Bibles with him. After speaking to the jailer, Hayward was astonished to discover that 22 was the exact number of Bibles he would need to provide one to every jail cell.
On the way home, Hayward said he became exceedingly emotional thinking about the inmates and their situation and said that’s when he received a vision from God instructing him to consistently provide ministry to the prisoners. Hayward then applied and was approved for a non-profit status and Jailhouse Rock Ministries was born.
According to Hayward, the ministry is completely run by volunteers and nobody receives payment or compensation so they can put 100% of their funding towards helping the prisoners. The small board of directors at Jailhouse Rock even personally takes care of the rent, utilities and insurance for their office to ensure that all funds received from donations go directly into the ministry.
“It’s been incredible to watch him do it,” Hayward said. “That’s the neat thing that I’ve seen. I’m just watching God do all of this, I’m just part of the little plan that He has.”
Hayward says that the ministry typically receives about 50 letters per week from prisoners requesting Bibles, Christian books and studies and each letter is addressed by volunteers at the Jailhouse Rock office in Stockton. There are 115 county jails in Missouri and the ministry serves as many prisoners as possible.
Hayward joked that he used to wonder why God didn’t allow him to be born in Rhode Island, a state with only two counties. But after some research. Hayward realized that the uptick in Missouri’s prison inmate population began booming in 1993.
“That was an eye opener, God saw all of this coming before we knew what was going on,” Hayward said. “We want to let them know that there is somebody on the outside who does care about them. We have no other agenda other than trying to help them find Christ and be a better person and be productive in society.”
The ministry offers several different versions of the Bible to prisoners but according to Hayward, the most popular translation is an illustrated comic Bible. A jailer once told Jailhouse Rock that the majority of prisoners do not have an education above 6th grade and that easier reading material would be ideal. Therefore, Hayward found the comic Bible and it has since been the highest in demand.
To date, Jailhouse Rock has provided over 77,000 Bibles to Missouri’s prisoners along with over 60,000 Christian books full of successful prison testimonies. Hayward says that his group sends an average of 4,000 Bibles per year to local jails and prisons.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything. This has been so phenomenal, especially the longevity of seeing so many lives changed.”
What once started as an extracurricular for Hayward has now turned into a statewide non-profit organization committed to helping thousands of prisoners a year by using only faith, passion and word of mouth.
Those interested in donating to Jailhouse Rock Ministries can send a check to P.O. Box 880, Stockton, Missouri, 65785.