The History of Miracle Lake, as told by founder Jack Bryan
After four years of ministering to prisoners, I began seeing a pattern. Men would be released from prison, and within a few months, they would be back in prison again. I saw the need for a center where serious-minded men could continue Christian training upon their release from prison.
I knew of a piece of property in Etowah, my home town that would make an ideal campus for such a training center. We formed a corporation and purchased the 117-acre tract of land known as the L & N Dam property. The L & N Railroad had built the dam that formed the 11-acre lake. They ran an eight-inch pipe from the dam to their railroad terminal in Etowah. When the railroads converted from steam engines to diesel motors in the late 1940s, they no longer had any use for the dam and sold the property in 1965. By the time I took an interest in the property in 1978, I discovered that I would have to buy from ten different owners to get the original tract back together. That turned into a two-year-long nightmare.
By December of 1980, we had the original tract back together and had developed the campus well enough to begin taking resident students into our program. By April of 2016, we have received 1,661 students. However, I have observed that God has used us to intercept more men on their way to prison than those coming out of prison.
Tennessee Prison Ministries
The Jail and Prison Ministry began the first Sunday of October of 1973, and within a year, that ministry was expanded into the prisons across the state of Tennessee to the extent that, we now have, a regular ministry in fourteen (14) of the prisons in Tennessee. These include the Tennessee Prisons for Women. We now have four full-time chaplains. We are concentrating primarily on the men who are just entering the Tennessee Prison System. Two of our chaplains are working full-time with the new intakes at the Bledsoe County Reception Center. Another chaplain maintains a monthly ministry in all the other prisons across the state of Tennessee. He is able to maintain contact with the inmates that have responded to our ministry at the reception center. By having meetings with these men and, at the same time, getting acquainted with other Christian leaders in each prison, we are able to accomplish our overall objective of building Christian community in all the prisons. Our fourth chaplain concentrates on the two prisons in Southwest Tennessee. This ministry operates under the name of Tennessee Prison Ministries. During the year of 2015, we saw 628 men and women commit their lives to Jesus Christ, and 85 of them followed the Lord in baptism. We signed up 1,640 inmates for correspondence courses and graded 48,287 lessons. In addition, we handed out 3,705 Bibles (most of which were furnished by the Gideons). We also handed out 32,681 pieces of Christian Literature other than Bibles and Bible Lessons.