GREENVILLE – On Tuesday mornings, folks coming in and out of the Darke County Courthouse will have an opportunity to pray.
Courtside Ministries, a non-profit organization, was founded in 2008 by Criminal Defense Attorney J. Tyler, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He started local and has spread his mission across the country. In 2011, others joined the mission, such as: Directer and President Tom Strening, of Chicago, Tony Cargile, Jason O’Neal and Executive Director Mike Kienapple, all of Indiana. In 2011 it exploded, according to Kienapple. He and Strening travel to launch the interdenominational ministry with different local churches, who eventually sustain the ministry.
“That is why the name is so generic (Courtside),” Kienapple said. “We want to be an expression of churches in Greenville and Darke county. The more churches that get involved, the better.”
Courtside started in Ohio about six months ago and just came to Darke County, last Tuesday. People need prayer and this is a bridge to engage in peoples’ hearts, Kienapple said.
“If you read the Bible, God intersected himself in the midst of hurt and pain and hopelessness,” Kienapple said. “When people come to court, nobody is usually ready to party and rejoice – they are hurting, scared, desperate and hopeless.”
Strening is the chaplain, in Chicago, and is responsible for 11 courthouses there. According to him, last year Courtside Ministries prayed for 67,000 people. Out of those, 4,552 prayed to receive Christ and 6,700 referrals were made. A referral is when a person is sent to a substance abuse treatment facility, a church or other places for help. While the organization tracks numbers of prayer encounters and referrals, it is really more about quality, Strening said.
“If I pray for three people this morning and someone gets transformed, that was a good morning,” he said. “We want to see genuine change. I don’t just want to pray with you when we have this encounter. I want to connect you with someone who is going to keep you going. I have had the privilege of doing this for five years – what an awesome job. I get to go out and pray for people and watch God bless them. “
Strening said many of his encounters with people are unforgettable. One of the first people Courtside Ministries prayed for, in Chicago, was a man who had just been released from prison.
“He said, ‘Yeah, I would love for you to pray for me – pray that I never take another human life’,” Strening said. “He ended up finding a church. I can’t tell them what to do, but I can pray that God’s peace comes upon them.”
One woman’s son was murdered and she was having a really hard time forgiving, Strening said.
“We prayed that she could forgive,” he said. “Forgiveness doesn’t mean we don’t want justice. It means God – we trust unto You justice. She went to the sentencing and made a statement to this person (that murdered her son). She came down the steps and said, ‘I want you to know, I looked at that man and I said, ‘I forgive you’. That is important for her – she needed to do that for her. What happens to that guy is the justice system’s job. It doesn’t have a lot to do with us. I just want them to encounter who Jesus is – He can fix them; I can’t.”
“I have seen when people are hungry and it attracts God’s presence,” Strening added. “If you are really hungry and sincere, God seems to be all over this. I just want to get out of the way and bless it.”
Kienapple said he and Strening have been so richly blessed by the richness in the relationships with people they have met through the ministry.
“The church doesn’t normally come together, but when you bring the church, with so many different denominations, God is so attracted to that. When people drive by, they say that is not just one church. That is what this is all about. They will know we are Christians by our love.”
For more information, visit courtsideministries.org.
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