Recently one of my racquetball buddies and I were talking after a match. “Will you be here tomorrow?” he asked. I told him no because I would be in jail. This piqued his curiosity and he wanted to know what I meant.
I told him about my ministry as a volunteer chaplain with OJPM. He kept asking questions. He seemed to really want to know what it was like. I described the sixth-floor chaplain’s office at the Oklahoma County Jail. I shared how most of the inmates come there because they want prayer, they want hope, and they want to hear from God’s Word.
This led to a frank discussion of the gospel, the Lord’s offer of forgiveness and new life in Christ. He listened respectfully as I told him that is what we all need, whether we are prisoners in jail or “respectable” people on the outside. We are all sinners. I told him about the Lord’s gracious offer of eternal life through faith in Jesus the savior. He’s thinking about all this and I am praying for him.
One of the questions he asked had to do with why I would want to do this. I told him I do this because I have been blessed with a great spiritual heritage and excellent training. Most of the people I meet in the jail have not had these advantages. I feel a solemn responsibility to share the blessings I have been given.
Another thing I told my friend is that prisoners are human beings created in the image of God. As such they have value in His sight. I told him what George Rennix said some time ago: “When I go into the jail, I want to consider those inmates more valuable than myself,” commenting on Philippians 2:3. I want the same thing. I think one reason prisoners want to see a chaplain is that they are treated with respect as they are told about God’s love for them.
As a retired pastor, I have the Bible knowledge, the desire to proclaim the gospel of Christ, and the discretionary time which allows me to serve. The inmates are spiritually hungry, and most of them are receptive to the gospel. There is a great need for chaplains, and it is a privilege to serve the Lord in this way.
I also told my friend about the joy I feel when a person, broken by sin and repentant, opens his heart to Jesus Christ to receive the gift of eternal life by faith alone. There is joy in the presence of the angels and there is joy in the Oklahoma County Jail.
I appreciate the prayers in the beautiful little book, Valley of Vision. Here is one that sums up my motivation for service with OJPM:
Thou hast knowledge of my soul’s secret principles
And art aware of my desire to spread the gospel.
Make me an almoner (one who gives generously) to give Thy bounties to the indigent,
Comfort to the mentally ill,
Restoration to the sin-diseased,
Hope to the despairing,
Joy to the sorrowing,
Love to the prodigals.
Blow away the ashes of unbelief by Thy Spirit’s breath,
And give me light, fire and warmth of love. Amen.