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‘˜Sister’ Anita West-Pack has 20-year jail ministry

By Kay S. Pedrotti Many adjectives could describe Anita West-Pack of Barnesville: Zealous, fearless, dedicated, humorous, faithful, inspiring. All are appropriate for the woman who has taught Bible studies and conducted church services for Lamar County Detention Center inmates for more than 20 years. Both sheriff Brad White and chief deputy Maj. Leslie Holmes agree the woman known as ‘Sister Anita’ or ‘Sister West’ has been an asset to both law enforcement and the people she serves. White said she is a consistent spiritual counselor who always has a word of encouragement. Not long ago, sheriff White gave her a letter praising her services ‘“ she in turn presented him with a Bible. West-Pack grew up in Milner and graduated from Lamar County Comprehensive High School. She has a daughter, Shawanda T. West, and a grandson, Curtis McGee, 9. A disabled veteran of the United States Army, West-Pack began her path to ordained ministry by volunteering with chaplains at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Decatur. ’I wanted to help people because my dad was an alcoholic,’ West-Pack says. ‘Our childhood was not totally happy; we lived in fear sometimes but I began to learn how God gives us grace not to get angry, because when you get angry you give those people power over you.’ She says she has never felt any fear of being inside a jail or felt threatened by inmates. Because the sexes do not mix in detention, she says she teaches men and women separately on four Sundays and two Wednesdays a month. The first wom- an to be ordained to ministry at Greater Spring Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Milner, she also has earned a preaching license from the Overcom ing Church of God of America. Thirteen years ago, West-Pack became the first black woman to be married at Barnesville Church of the Nazarene while Dr. Harold Latham was pastor. She still attends the Nazarene church when she can and her grandson comes to church too, says the present pastor, Lonnie Grant. ‘She’s just a wonderful lady,’ Grant notes. ‘She was in a prayer group when I first came here and we’ve prayed together ever since. Spiritually we hold each other up and we have some great laughs together too. We’ve been through both fires and rejoicing and she’ll always be my good friend and a strong prayer partner.’ West-Pack adds that this time of year is always heart-wrenching for her and for the inmates. ’It’s hard to be serving time, grievous to be locked up away from your family, especially during the holidays. I try to let them know God hasn’t departed from them and they’re His children,’ she says. Meditations are important for her, she says, as a ‘time of talking with God ‘“ and he really does answer me.’ She has learned what she calls the ‘Three Ps’ ‘“ the peace of Jesus, to rest in the presence of Jesus, and the importance of purpose as a follower of Jesus. ’Sister West’ can be reached at 678-641-0219. What she does daily for her family, friends and strangers ‘“ in addition to jail inmates ‘“ she calls Learning to Love Ministries. That number is 770-227-2035.

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