Wildcat Tracks: Steven Howell ’15
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40, NIV). This verse serves as an instruction letter of sorts to us as believers. It is a reminder to help those less fortunate than ourselves; they are just as important in God’s eyes as anyone else. Steven Howell lives this verse every day. He currently serves as the Strategic Development Director for Metanoia Prison Ministries in Chattanooga, TN. “I originally joined Metanoia Prison Ministries as an intern in 2017 while at Covenant, and have served in various capacities for the organization over the years. Our mission is to engage, educate, and equip the body of Christ for the discipleship, mentoring, and reintegration of prisoners,” Steven said. With over 2 million incarcerated individuals in the US, there is no shortage of people in this mission field. “Approximately 150,000+ of these individuals are our brothers and sisters in Christ,” Steven explained. “Sadly, despite having the largest incarceration rate in the world, the prisoners in our own backyards are largely overlooked by the American church.”
While a high school student at Westminster, Steven recalls feeling a level of investment the teachers had in their students, which has carried over into his life today. “In my experience, teachers were always willing to make time to talk outside of class, to provide both personal and academic encouragement, to challenge and accommodate us. I have fond memories of teachers like Mr. Knerr, Mr. Warren, Mr. Wilkins, Mr. Munger, and Mrs. Harding.”
“Looking back, I feel as though my experience at WCA genuinely equipped me to think critically about life as opposed to merely learning to absorb information. This skill alone has served me in countless ways and across many areas of my life.”
According to Steven, incarcerated individuals are eager to learn about Jesus. These are people who respond to anyone who cares to be invested in them. “There is certainly a hunger for the Gospel among those in prison. While the proportions vary from facility to facility in which we operate, prisoners that sign up to receive discipleship and mentoring from Metanoia’s volunteers are among those who have already come to faith in Christ and are pursuing deeper relationships with Him; those who are beginning the seeking process, and those who have historically rejected Christ altogether (or have no knowledge of Him whatsoever),” Steven said. “It has been a privilege to witness the Spirit meet these men and women in each stage of faith to transform their lives time and time again. Even among our staff, we have individuals who were formerly incarcerated, encountered Jesus in prison (some through their contact with Metanoia), and are now spreading the hope of His Gospel to those behind bars. We have also had a number of other program participants go on to earn Bachelor’s, Master’s, and even Doctoral level theological education through our partnership with MINTS Seminary-in-Prison.”
The love of Jesus shown to these men and women has a lasting effect. “One cause of great rejoicing for us is, generally speaking, the rate at which former Metanoia participants return to prison following their release, the recidivism rate, is 1.5%. The national average for all prisoners is roughly 60%. Every single day we are reminded Jesus truly transforms lives,” Steven said.
When asked how the Westminster alumni community can support this ministry, Steven replied, “The best and most important way is to partner with Metanoia through prayer. We truly believe prayer is the work of prison ministry, and we have seen God work numerous miracles through the regular, devoted, and faithful prayers of His people. Time and time again, we find that prayer is THE most effective means by which the Lord works.” There are also opportunities to be financially supportive as well. “While we wholeheartedly believe that prison ministry is a necessary work of the Church, we know that not every individual believer
is able to or called to minister to the incarcerated. However, we also believe that every time one of our staff steps foot into a prison, our financial partners go with us.”
Ultimately, this echoes the vision statement that Westminster has for our students: Prepare and equip more young men and women to engage the world and change it for Jesus Christ. Steven Howell is working in the mission field to do just this.
“As recipients of immeasurable grace ourselves, it should come as no surprise that many men and women have and do come to genuine faith in Christ during their incarceration. As with the nations, so the mission field behind bars is ripe for a plentiful harvest!”
For more information on Metanoia Prison Ministries or to make a donation: www.metanoiaprisonministries.
To contact Steven directly: email@example.com