HOUSTON (BP) — Without experience in writing nor a theological background, David Howell answered his call to evangelism through prison ministry.
Howell, a Texas businessman in the oil industry and member of Second Baptist Church in Houston, started his outreach by writing a graphic guidebook titled, “How to Be a Child of God,” to be distributed free in prisons across the country through his ministry Prison Evangelism.
“The book is designed as a self-proclaimer; it doesn’t need a priest or preacher or counselor to go through the steps with you,” Howell said. “I want them to be able to say that prayer and come to know Jesus Christ without the need for someone else.”
Howell, whose ministry has been featured in Religion News Service and on the 700 Club, originally planned to print a couple hundred copies of the short book until a friend he had asked to edit it suggested he print 100 copies for each prison in Texas.
When Howell became “overwhelmed with additional requests for more books from all those wardens and chaplains,” he knew he was moving in the right ministry.
“David Howell is to be commended for producing a tract that goes beyond what one usually expects,” said David Allen, dean of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s School of Preaching. “The Gospel is clearly presented, illustrated, and with an eye toward discipleship as well. I predict lots of people will take up and read it, and may they come to Christ as Savior and Lord!”
Over the past several years, How to Be a Child of God has been circulated in prisons across the United States and has undergone a few changes such as an added section on “How to Tell Your Story.”
“I’d never seen a book that taught you how to witness or taught you how to tell your story,” Howell said.
New believers have a small window of time when “they’re so excited and they want to tell everyone that they’ve fallen in love with Jesus,” he said. “The witnessing seems to stop very shortly after you come to salvation. That’s why I added the How to Tell Your Story portion, because the primary way to witness to others is by telling your testimony. No one can refute that.”
With the average number of inmates per prison unit around 1,000, Howell stated, “I have found that a third of those will accept a tract, go to a chapel meeting or take one of my books. … About 30-70 of those 1,000 will accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.
“You and I can walk around neighborhoods and go door-to-door passing out tracks and talk to people about Jesus Christ,” he continued. “Maybe one out of 150 will invite us in and hear about Jesus.
“So, one out of three [showing openness] in a prison is a huge number.”
Howell said the view toward prisoners by many people is “let them rot,” but in Scripture he has seen how Jesus loves prisoners.
“We’re the only ones who differentiate between who we should evangelize and who we shouldn’t,” he said. “They’re all the same to God. He wants the people who have the heart for Him brought into the Kingdom, no matter where they come from and what their story is.”
Through Prison Evangelism, Howell has sent out approximately 375,000 of the guidebooks to prisons and has received more than 2,000 letters and testimonies from prisoners.
“I get 10 to 15 letters a day saying anything from the book changed their life to their faith was renewed in God and to send more [Scripture] references to strengthen their walk with God in their new faith, along with stories of prisoners witnessing to other prisoners,” Howell said.
The ministry, online at prisonevangelism.com, has been funded mainly by his business with the help of churches and others but it hasn’t yet reached 15 states due to funding. “If anyone has a heart for prison ministry,” Howell said, “we would love to have their help.”