LEWISTOWN - Sometimes it's not what's on the outside, but what's on the inside that counts.
The same was true Monday evening as the hustle and bustle of dinner hour painted a familiar scene over downtown Lewistown - cars traveling through the square, parking lots filling with hungry patrons.
But on the inside of a locally-owned restaurant, lives were changing.
A small group of women gathered at a table nestled in the dining room of Danny's BBQ on the square. They called themselves "Joy Seekers" and explained their ministry as an outreach to women who have previously been incarcerated at the Mifflin County Correctional Facility.
"We have a heart to support and encourage other women," said Diane Snook, organizer.
She, along with other women from local churches, have organized a weekly Bible study to reach out to women who are adjusting to "normal" life again.
Virginia Renno, also present at the study, said she had visited the correctional facility numerous times with a group of volunteers from Locust Grove Mennonite Church in Belleville.
"We have a group of prayer warriors," she explained, who minister to inmates.
However, when the women are released from the facility, Renno said they may not know where to go for help and support.
That's where Joy Seekers comes in.
The Bible study provides "someone to share with and ask questions," said Carol Goss, who also attended the Monday evening gathering.
Joy Seekers meets at 6:30 p.m. Monday nights at Danny's BBQ on the square in Lewistown. Snook said meetings last about one hour and are open to women "wherever they're at in their life." She said some participants grew up in the church while others are new believers with little or no background in the church. The study is open to everyone and the topic each week caters to the needs of the women who attend. Since its conception in early July, the group has averaged four or more participants at each meeting.
Snook said the group meets in the downtown barbecue joint to provide a comfortable atmosphere for everyone involved.
"We're not here to get (participants) into a church," said Peggy Anderson, of Lewistown Assembly of God.
Instead, the women hope to reach former inmates in a neutral, relaxed atmosphere.
As the study grows, Snook said those seeking further guidance will have the option of being matched with a mentor. She said the mentor will work with the particiant on a one-on-one basis, futher personalizing the outreach.
"My desire would be to get (participants) into God's word on a daily basis," Renno said, adding that she hopes participants ultimately will grow in their faith and share it with someone else.
With that, she pulled a small plastic bag from her study materials, opened it and handed squares of magenta felt to everyone sitting at the table. They were nothing but scraps of cloth, "remnants," leftover from a larger piece. Renno said the word "remnant" is used in the beginning of Exodus.
"God has preserved a remnant of people," she explained, from the first day until now, who believe in Him, live by His word and share it with others.
Renno said she desires as many women as possible to understand and know God's love.
"They might feel like they're nothing," she said, looking back at the remnant of felt between her fingers.
But there is strength in numbers. Through Joy Seekers, she said, women can come together for greater purpose.
"You can take a whole lot of people and make a quilt out of it ..." she said.
Anderson highlighted Jeremiah 29:11, which reads, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
"This is the most important thing we can teach anybody," Goss said.