KEARNEY — Jail may be one of the last places a person would expect to hear Christmas carols.

But that’s exactly the sound that resonated through the Buffalo County Jail Sunday evening as a group of about 20 parishioners from three Kearney churches sang Christmas carols and told the Christmas story to inmates. That activity has been going on at the jail the last 25 years.
“The inmates are usually and generally surprised by the fact that people would take time out to come in and bring carols to them,” said John Gosswein, organizer and the pastor at Family Church of Christ.
For more than two hours, parishioners from Family Church of Christ, First Baptist and New Life Assembly churches in Kearney divide up and go to each of the 15 cell blocks in the jail to sing, share cookies and cider, play verbal games, and tell the Christmas story.
“This is a way to bring the Christmas carols to the least-expected places,” Gosswein said, “just as the shepherds on that night weren’t expecting angels to be singing to them.”
Representatives from the three churches also go into the jail weekly and provide Bible studies to inmates.
Corrections officers also sometimes get involved in the games and singing, Gosswein said.
For safety reasons, parishioners must first be approved to go into the jail. Once there, they are searched by corrections officers before entering the facility. The Hub wasn’t allowed inside for this story.
“If anybody needs to hear the message, it’s probably some of the inmates that are there,” Gosswein said.
At first, Gosswein said, inmates are somewhat hesitant about the reason parishioners would carol to them. But inmates quickly warm up to the gesture.
Gosswein knows the Christmas message gets through to some inmates. In the past, one inmate told Gosswein it was one of the few times that he realized what Christmas was about.
“That God would come to places that are so locked up — he wasn’t talking about the cell. He was talking about his heart and his life,” he said.
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Posted: Tuesday, December 23, 2014 12:10 pm | Updated: 12:12 pm, Tue Dec 23, 2014. Area church-goers share carols, Christmas story to inmates at Buffalo County Jail By KIM SCHMIDT Hub Staff Writer Kearney Hub