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Posted: April 8, 2012 5:54 p.m.

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Neighbors start women’s jail ministry

The Rev. Diane Walton doesn't preach from a pulpit because she says many people in churches aren't the ones in real need. Instead, she and her neighbor Sharlene Smith minister to the troubled women in the Newton County Detention Center.

Whether it's a teenage daughter who murdered her mother or a mother who killed her five-week-old baby, Walton and Smith seek to help the truly damaged, and they've seen personalities change during their first three months in the ministry.

"These women are truly in need. They need salvation," Walton said Friday. "The spirit of the Lord called me to present the word of God to the captive, the poor, the broken-hearted, the ones who are in need. I know who God is and what He's done for me. I am called on a mission to go to inmates to let them know the word of God is a freedom in spirit even behind bars. God can free you no matter where you are."

The neighbors visit the county jail twice a week, once for a worship service with preaching, singing and praise, dancing and once to work with the newly formed women's jail choir. Sometimes 100 or more women will participate in the worship services.

"It's in my heart to help people who are downhearted and have no direction in life," Smith said.

Though the ministry is called Diane Walton Ministries, the idea was actually Smith's.

"We are neighbors and we just hooked up. We get filled with the spirit every time we're together, and we live in the spirit," Smith said.

For Walton, the volunteer effort is also a chance for her to put her education to use. She has a master of arts in education and an undergraduate degree in religion.

"You have to live and die for what you believe. If you don't do what He's called you to do, you'll be in trouble with Him. I don't want to be in trouble with Him," Walton said.

If asked, Smith and Walton will continue to minister to inmates once they get out of jail. The neighbors are trying to find and set up a facility to help former inmates get back on their feet.

"A lot of them don't have anywhere to go and nothing to do. We need to get them back in school, get them a job, do something for them," Walton said. "Jesus went around helping the poor and broken-hearted. He walked among them."

For more information about Diane Walton Ministries or to aid in the organization's efforts call (678) 625-9593 or (678) 558-3565.

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