County Corrections Gospel Mission, a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was established in the United States in 1984 and now has offices in Brandamore, Pennsylvania and on Second Street, Washington DC.
The following dates are beacons on our path and we acknowledge God’s Hand in establishing and sustaining the ministry over more than 20 years
1973 – Pastor Jack Crans appointed as Chaplain of the Chester County Prison
1976 – City Gate Mission established in Coatesville
1984 – County Corrections Gospel Mission established
1992 – The Camp at Old Mill was purchased, renovated and established to strengthen our effectiveness and impact on especially at-risk children from Coatesville, Chester and as far as Brooklyn, New York.
County Corrections Gospel Mission – A Concise History by founder and Director Jack Crans
I have formally served in Prison Chaplaincy since 1973. The Chester County Prison has been the primary hub of this ministry these almost 40 years. The county prison became the place where I personally learned the urgency for tangible, effective ministry on behalf of prisoners and their families.
My father moved our family into Coatesville, Pennsylvania in 1959 which exposed my life to the experience of sorrows which were common throughout the nation and clearly reflected in the concerns of civil rights, segregation, racial and political upheaval into the tragic violence of cities, schools and the assassinations of the President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Attorney General Robert Kennedy and the Reverend Martin Luther King. The City of Coatesville has never been large, but, it has long been a stronghold for broken families, poverty and sorrow. It was in the years of 1959 thru my graduation from Coatesville High School in 1968 that my ‘eyes effected my heart.’ My mother’s death to cancer in November of 1967 softened my heart even more and I was being deeply impacted by the reality of classmates and neighbors who were soon to be incarcerated for emerging drug crimes and all too often, were dying early deaths.
My undergraduate and graduate schooling prepared me both in the study of sacred scripture and also trained me through constant placements for chaplaincy experience with precious lives locked-up in institutions suffering from mental illness to the young, violent lives of Philadelphia gangs. What astonished me so early was the spiritual hunger and frailty of fatherless boys who in the context of a locked juvenile detention facility would curl up in a fetal position at bedtime and fall off to sleep sucking their thumb. This may not have been the most common of behaviors, but, it was very real and I can assure you that I’ve seen this behavior a multiple of times.
Once I began to serve as Chaplain at the Chester County Prison it didn’t take long to see great needs in the lives of the prisoners, but, also in the lives of those who ‘kept’ them. I enjoyed spending time with men and women behind bars and was deeply challenged by their counsel and their heart-cries to stir the interest of churches on their behalf. I’ll never forget Nuge who said so forcibly from his Maximum Security cell: “I believe I could make it on the streets if only churches were open during the week.” We set out to answer that plea in August of 1980 by establishing the beginnings of the City Gate Mission located at 715 East Lincoln Highway. To this day, City Gate Mission houses men returning to the community from prison and thousands of lives have been tangibly served and some transformed by the loving care of churches and the faithful presence of the Gospel in men and women’s lives. Quite clearly, the urgency for such a ministry was first spoken by the prisoners themselves. Then, and only then, the church and community responded.
This has long been the pattern of ministry from Chester County Prison. A clear cry-of-the-heart rises up from the seemingly dark and hopeless prison and with prayerfulness and willing sacrifice another tangible ministry embraces a broken life. By the late 1970’s we were seeing the deep and urgent needs of Wardens in the Department of Corrections and across the Commonwealth’s sixty-six (66) counties. My heart was as burdened for the ‘keeper’ as it had been for the ‘kept.’ It was this growing burden for leaders in Criminal Justice that birthed CCGM by October of 1984. Sue and I moved our family of 3 sons, ages 4, 8 and 12 into the City of Coatesville and we began to focus on the city’s housing projects, as well. We marveled at the welcome of so many precious (often, fatherless) families and began to serve the boys and girls of inmates through weekly Bible Clubs and almost daily relationships within the struggling neighborhoods. The relationship of this work amidst children in the high crime neighborhood would soon give way to an even more effectual work within the prison. The inmate mother and father were all the more ready to receive our ministry of care in their lives.
By 1992, CCGM was able to purchase an 18 acre camp located just 7 miles from the homes of our Kid’s Club families. The prison had already birthed City Gate Mission and had inspired a new burden for leaders across the Commonwealth, now, the heart-cry of incarcerated parents was begging for a meaningful, loving embrace of our city’s children.
Compassionate leaders within Chester County’s government and most especially within the Chester County Prison encouraged us all through the years. Our heavy heart for Correctional Officers and Wardens spilled over into a burden for police and all related peace-officers within our region and far beyond in such works as: Christian Police Associations ( worldwide ), Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers, Pointman Leadership Institute and even wider reach through Heart Cry for Revival and even Chaplaincy with the Society of the Honor Guard: Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as all of these realms of leaders admit to a tenderness of heart for the nation and its children.
Jeremiah, the weeping prophet said it best: “LORD, let mine eyes effect my heart!” The need for wise, God-centered leaders has fallen upon nations more than ever before in history. The county prison in every place in the United States, no less, prisons throughout the world all echo heart-cries of which we as God-fearing, blessed lives ought to heed and embrace for such a time as this. I can assure you that we at CCGM have a wonderful opportunity to encourage leaders in very high places to lead with compassion and fullest dependence upon God.
Such scriptures as found in Habakkuk 2:1-4; Jeremiah 10:23,24; Psalms 39:1-7; Isaiah 66:1,2; Ezekiel 9; and Jeremiah 6:16,17 all cry to us for such an awakening of leaders to address the heart-cries so evident in our nation’s families, institutions and prisons.
County Corrections Gospel Mission commenced in the context of broken lives and crying hearts in our own county’s prison. It has clearly been the strong, forcible groans of the prisoner which God has used to bring us to this hour in history. We will continue to embrace the prisoner in our own region and seek to herald a message of compassion that hopefully will awaken churches, police departments, prisons, courtrooms and individuals for the strategic embracing of this present generation of too oft’ forsaken children.
It’s our prayer that God will tender hearts who lead in high places of authority and that the tears so often wept in the corridors of a prison will bear great fruit in the awakening of a spirit of repentance in all of our hearts!
The work has just begun!