History of Keith Bellamy’s ministry
History of Keith Bellamy’s ministry
Warning: If you are dead set against ministering to those in jails and prisons, stop reading NOW! If you continue, you will more than likely be converted into an instructor, chaplain, trainer, visitor or recruiter of volunteers to fulfill Matthew 25:36.
Here is the story of a couple who were working with troubled adults and children long before using the Christians Against Substance Abuse (CASA) and NewLife Behavior (NLB) lessons. They were doing this in West Virginia forty years ago in a small mission church. Keith Bellamy was exposed to many missionaries in his youth and adulthood also. It was second nature for Keith to naturally share the gospel all the time and to all who would listen. The late Winston Atkinson had a big influence on Keith and his wife, Diane, as far as evangelism is concerned. Winston would ask Keith to make visits and the preaching/teaching bug grabbed him.
Keith first started using the CASA curriculum in 1988, when Buck Griffith introduced him to his drug and alcohol abuse course. In 1999, at the recommendation of Famous Byers, of Beaumont, Keith also began using the NLB courses. From that time on, Keith has given his heart and soul to helping prisoners learn about freedom….in Christ. Keith also used the courses to help people with troubled marriages/families in the free world.
Keith and Diane, at the time he started ministering to inmates, lived in Bishop, Texas where he ministered to a small congregation. Then in 1999, they took a preaching position in Woodville, Texas. Woodville is a rural area 55 miles north of Beaumont. There, he applied to work as a volunteer chaplain in the Gib Lewis prison. One of these reasons for applying to be a chaplain was to get greater access, with less red tape, to not only a couple of inmates, but access to all the prisoners in that unit. Since that beginning nineteen years ago, Keith and his co-workers have ministered to hundreds of inmates, through the use of the NLB lessons.
Keith has many inspiring stories, three he shares here. One is about a free world student; an ex-offender, who attended one of his CASA classes. The student was so impressed with the materials that he asked if he could take the lessons to use in his congregation in Kingsville, Texas.
His class in his church went well. Later, he offered a class in the Kleberg County Jail, using the CASA lessons. As you well know success leads to more success, this man ended up becoming the chaplain for the jail. This brother passed away, but his younger brother became active by becoming the contact person for involvement in the jail.
As Keith looks back on his involvement, he feels that he and his helpers were of value to the inmates. They offered encouragement and training, which as you probably know there is definitely a shortage of the element of encouragement in the typical prison. Due to their efforts many of the substance abusers have become ex-offenders and have done quite well, when they left their life behind the big fence. The gratitude shown to the volunteers and for the use of the NLB lessons, no longer surprises Keith and his team.
Keith also tells a story about an experience that helped to solidify his worldview about taking Matt 25:36 seriously. He tells about a former prisoner who came to their church and preached for them one Sunday evening. Cecil Haffelfinger had invited the man to speak and had ministered to this man in a Huntsville, Texas prison back in the 1960’s. When the man finished his sermon and extended the invitation, 125 people came forward to respond to his invitation. In many congregations, 125 in attendance in the evening would be everyone present. In other words, the ex-con made believers out of the members and visitors. Keith, being the regular member, and his wife also responded.
Keith, told how that a few years later, he quit his successful insurance business so he could give more time to the ministry and ultimately to the prison ministry. That is a worldview that will certainly impact others.
Another story that Keith shared inspires many of us. Keith in his teaching had told his class about a man, John Henry Pruit, who had been in prison for many years. There was a man who had served in the same prison with John Henry. When that man heard Keith’s comments and was baptized, the man told him he knew John Henry. He told Keith that he knew John Henry as a Muslim. Keith shared how John Henry became a great worker for prisoners as a member of Buck Griffith’s team.
I, too, know John Henry. I had him in one of my classed for at least three years, some of that time was before he was baptized. I encourage you to read our profile of John Henry. I am glad I did not know he had been a Muslim. Please read and find out why.
Keith commented that he and his co-workers liked using the NLB lessons, especially, CASA. Many of the prisoners were addicted to drugs and alcohol, as well as having anger issues. Over a period of time, the students asked for help with both. So, the NLB courses were exactly what the inmates needed. Another need the inmates had was knowing that they needed not a reformation of behavior, but a transformation as described in Romans chapter 12. So, the course a “Sense of Self” was taught.
Keith, in closing wrote that, “If someone wants to make a difference, NewLife Behavior, is a very good tool to have. The lessons are down to earth and the resources available through NewLife are tremendous.”
We have made great strides with most of the wardens we have worked with and some of them became personal friends. Sometimes the prison guards listen to our lessons and some have expressed interest. We have had to work with the chaplains. For the most part they have been receptive of the NewLife Ministries.
This past year we have finally created a team from the church. Mike Miller preaches for the Oak Grove church in the Soda community out of Livingston. Mike Gipson is one of our members here in Woodville. Both these men have been certified to be NewLife volunteers. Norman Turner has been a volunteer chaplain and mentor at the Gib Lewis prison for about 18 years. All three use NewLife.
We were trying to relocate from south Texas back in 1999. My dad had passed away and we felt like we needed to get closer to my mother and Diane’s mother in Galveston County.
So, I guess you could say God sent us to Woodville, so I could serve at the Gib Lewis Prison. There have been opportunities to use NewLife/CASa with probationers. Our current county sheriff, when he was Justice of the Peace, insisted that a young man come to me over his anger. We took him through Managing My Anger. I had the honor to baptize this young man last year. And what a difference that has made in his family life. I had performed his wedding ceremony years before. His wife and little boys were really taken when he made this commitment.
Keith, Thank you so very much for an informative and inspiring story.