Detroit pastor spreads Christmas cheer to inmates

DETROIT – The often-forgotten population during the holidays is the people in our prison system.

Local 4 News met a local volunteer with the Prison Fellowship, the country's largest prison ministry, who brings the sounds of Christmas to what is often a very lonely, dark place.

With CDs and performances spanning nearly 20 years, Detroit recording artist and pastor Rufus Harris admits that of all the genres of music he likes to perform, Christmas music was never one of them.

"(I had) no intention ever of doing any kind of Christmas album," Harris said.

But seeing how business was always slow for him this time of year, he decided that if you can't beat them, join them.

"I did a Christmas album, and that opened up doors," Harris said.

Prison doors, that is. Harris started bringing his guitar to prisons across Michigan and the country with the Prison Fellowship Organization.

"We do special concerts at Christmas time in prison," Harris said.

He performs at Milan Federal Prison in Milan and Women's Huron Valley Correctional Facility in Ypsilanti.

"(I perform) songs that they're familiar with, that they enjoy listening to," Harris said.

He brings the sounds of the season to the men and women that spend their holidays, year after year, behind bars.

"We go there to be a comfort to them," he said. "If a person has been in prison for more than 10 years, a lot of times, their families are done. Prison is a dark place. There's really not a lot of hope there."

But his music helps restore some of that hope.

"There's hope, there's joy," Harris said. "There is actually a peace that happens. One of the ladies from Huron Valley, she thanked us for loving them so much."

Harris not only makes frequent prison visits during the holidays -- he voluntarily comes back and performs all year round. Why?

"The church is supposed to remember those that are in prison," he said. "It's like they have a need, and just our being there meets the need."

He does it while giving himself something he needs, too.

"We always come out refreshed and very happy that we went," Harris said.

Harris and his wife spread that joy outside of prison, too. They host 4th Fridays, a Christian artists and musician project known by it's acronym, C.A.M.P.,  at the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center in Dearborn every fourth Friday. Admission is just $10.

Click here for more information about C.A.M.P.

Click here if you're interested in picking up Harris' Christmas CD.

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