At this past year's Cherry Blossom Festival at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, Scripturally Sound Ministries staff members, from left, Missy Henderson and Pastor Kat White share a light moment with Carolyn Amos and Jo Black, two women they have helped through their prison ministry.
Kat White's best friends are all in prison.
That's what this Covington grandmother said about the hundreds of men and women she helps each week through the ministry she founded with one letter and a stamp in 2005. Scripturally Sound Ministries is now a thriving jail and prison ministry with a newsletter that goes to inmates in Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.
"I've got about 500 on my mailing list," White said.
In addition to the newsletter, volunteers go to local jails and prisons to minister to the inmates and teach life skills classes, such as how to be better parents. She calls it a "reach don't preach" policy and said they try to reach everyone and follow the Scripture in Matthew that tells the Christian to visit those in prison.
"We have about 100 women at Newton County and probably 100 men at Newton," White said of the inmates. "We probably have about a dozen at Rockdale and a few in Walton ... We've got everything from child support to murder. Some of the nicest people I've ever met are in prison for murder.
"This is going to sound crazy, but like I tell my girls, it takes half a second to pull the trigger. A half a second can change your entire life. It goes to show how we always need to be thinking through our decisions. It happens in a blink of an eye."
White's ministry began with her own personal story.
"When a family member went to prison, I had that desire to fix it for them, to fix the situation," she said. "Of course, I couldn't, but I prayed and asked God what to do. He said, 'Just love them.' I started writing (the family member) letters."
The letter writing grew to include other inmates and as the numbers went from three to 20. White realized God was leading her into the ministry He had been preparing her for since she was a young girl.
Today, she regularly writes letters to about 500 inmates.
"They're all personal letters," she said. "We relate to everybody on a personal level. You can't help or change anybody unless you get to know them. After we started writing people and saw what a blessing it was, we began to branch out into other areas."
White said the ministry volunteers began visiting local jails.
"One thing led to another and then we started our Successability Program," she said. "Whether it's a personal visit or the classes we teach, we teach life skills and try to help people see with different eyes.
"For example, they can look at their jail time as punishment or an opportunity to make some changes ... People have been told by their loved ones that they're stupid or can't do this or that and it's overwhelming for them. We've found we can take those personality things that have been looked at as defects and teach them how to channel that in a positive way."
White, who is a licensed and ordained minister of the gospel, is known to the inmates as "Pastor Kat." Her husband, whom she calls her "rock" and who is also a licensed and ordained minister involved in the ministry with her, is Doug White, but the inmates call him "Pastor Dog."
The two have a good time and joke with the inmates about their "Kat and Dog" titles. The Whites are the parents of two grown daughters and have a "herd" of grandchildren, Kat White said.
White found a kindred soul in Missy Henderson when the two were in a leadership conference together at their church, The Church At Covington, where the Whites were ordained in 2010. White had been writing letters to inmates and trying to minister with just the help of her husband when she was in the class and heard Henderson mention something about prison ministry.
"I said, Girl, I need to talk to you. I need help,'" White said she told Henderson.
The Whites and Henderson were joined by a few other volunteers, but White said many more are needed. She said the demand is great and the ministry is in need of more help.
She encourages anyone who would like to get involved as a volunteer or make a donation to the non-profit organization to visit www.scripturallysoundministries.org.
The ministry's biggest expense is for postage and materials and the ministry routinely buys 25 to 50 Bibles at a time to distribute to inmates. They also buy reading glasses.
White said her big goal is to someday have a transitional facility available for those who have been released from prison where they could be helped and nurtured before being on their on again.
White, whose full-time job is a legal secretary for Jones Day, an Atlanta firm that specializes in corporate law, said she tells the inmates she works for lawyers, "but not the kind you need."
White praises her church for accepting and loving those released inmates she invites to come to The Church At Covington.
"I just love them all," she said of the inmates. "A guy at work said, 'I can't believe you mess with those people.' I thought, 'Really?' I love and care about those people and they love and care about me. They're just people who made mistakes. Everybody makes mistakes -- some more important than others."
Growing up in the Northlake area of DeKalb County, White said she made mistakes of her own and suffered with addiction.
"I was stuck on stupid, myself," she said. "I was fortunate that I never did get locked up and go that route, but I can relate to what they're going through.
"I had a troubled youth and I got married at a young age. One day, I just woke up and said, 'I don't want to live this way.' I got on my knees and asked God to help me and he delivered me. Even then I think God was preparing me for this ministry."
When the ministry began, White said she was "just a mom." She calls the inmates "my girls" and "my guys."
"They're hungry for somebody to care about them," she said. "I share my life with them and tell them my mistakes. I put my life out there. I'm able to show them you don't have to be perfect to be a Christian. You don't have to be perfect to be successful.
"I laugh with them and sometimes I tell them things that make them cry and I cry with them. I tell them, 'I hope you like what you see because your children are going to grow up to be just like you unless you change and you can.' We're filling up their tool box to help them change."
White said she has been blessed through this ministry."They're my people," she said. "They're my girls and my guys. I love them."
Beth Sexton is a freelance writer based in Snellville. If you have a story idea, contact Karen Rohr, features editor, at firstname.lastname@example.org.