My Letter to Inmates

In a typical week (remember those?) I am behind the walls portions of three days or evenings.

I’ve not been in since early March.

That also means the offenders have not had any type of visit since that time.

As a registered volunteer chaplain the Dept of Corrections mandates that I have no written communication with any inmate. Another peculiar rule is that I can have no contact with them once they are released until they are “off paper” (parole).

But I did send the following, care of the chaplain of the main institution in which I minister:

Dear Brothers and Friends at WRDCC:

Five months; more than 150 days…and I’ve not been able to hang out with you guys in the presence of our Lord.

For the four years I was locked up; and the four decades I’ve been in youth and prison ministry; never did I anticipate a “vacation” like this…

And it sucks. I miss you.

But I know it is worse for you…primarily because of no visits.

I and my people have been praying fervently for you…asking the Lord to make His presence very real and comforting to you.

I pray it won’t be long before you can see your loved ones…and they can see you!

I also pray it won’t be long before I can be with you, to worship our Lord, to share the Word, to pray.

In the meanwhile keep focused on Jesus…stay in the Word…memorize some Scripture that apply to your situation.

Don’t let time do you; you do time.

Redeem it.

I know that is easy to type; not so easy to do.

It is tough out here as well. Thankfully my feet are planted on solid ground…but so many people live in genuine fear out here on the streets.

The message for them is the message for you – you only need to fear God.

Nothing surprises Him. He never says “oops.” And Romans 8.28 reminds us that ALL things work together for good for those who love Him.

Peter Kuzmic was a Croatian pastor who spent years locked up for his faith. He wrote these words: “Hope is the ability to hear the music of the future; faith is having the courage to dance to it today.”

Dance, brothers…no matter how tough it is…sure beats hell!

Love in Christ,

Hopefully the chaplain was able to post it in a place where it would be seen. Prayerfully it brings a glimmer of hope to inmates.

Zach Williams is now my favorite artist…because he not only did a concert behind the walls of a prison; but was able to record it and share it. I invite you to enjoy the following song, but pay particular attention to the “crowd shots.” Observe the reaction of prisoners…Prison is my favorite place to preach…they already know they are a mess. (Least favorite place? Christian schools…)

Prisoned from Prison

It has been almost five months since I’ve been been behind the walls.

More importantly, it has been at least that long since any of the offenders have had a visit.

Because I’m an official volunteer chaplain, I am not allowed to write or receive any communication from the inmates. The rule stinks, but it is the rule.

So I spend a bit of time almost daily watching Zach Williams videos…because he recorded inside a prison and the cameraman caught crowd shots as well as focusing on the band.

It both helps and makes me sadder that I can’t go in…and there is no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

I would not have to raise more support (I serve as a home missionary) if I had ten bucks for every time someone said, “Jack, why do you keep going into prisons. I mean, I am sure some of those crooks are real, but aren’t there a lot of phonies who come to chapel in prison?”

Though my flesh may want to proceed in another direction, my standard reply is, “Of course there are phonies in prison chapel…why should prison church be any different that your church?”

You’ve probably never been to church behind the walls.

Here’s a sort-of visit.

I urge you to watch the whole thing…it gives a taste…


Man, I Miss Prison!

No, Iet don’t miss doing time.

Although there are moments I recall how much time I had to read during my time in Oregon State.

But I miss going behind the walls…whether to counsel, preach, lead Bible quizzing…or any of the other doors of ministry opened by our God.

I’ve not been “in” since early March…

And there is no proverbial light at the end of the tunnel…yet.

So I really enjoy this video of Zach Williams singing…and the pics of the offenders.

Perhaps you will also?


Don’t Ask The Question…If You Can’t Handle the Answer…

It happens often.

Someone learns that I spend a bit of time behind the walls and wire of a couple prisons.

They hear that I preaprisonchapel-300x209ch in chapel, meet one-on-one with offenders, and…yay…even do Bible quizzing in one institution.

And..too often…a well-meaning person says something like, “Gee, Jack, why do you do that? Aren’t there a whole lot of phonies who show up for prison chapel?”

I grit my teeth, and in my normative, compassionate way reply, “Sure there are…why should prison church be any different than your church?”

That closes that particular conversation…until the next time.

What Happened in the Joint?

crossroadsJune 10 I once again went “Behind The Walls” with the Bill Glass prison ministry.
This time I was the coordinator, overseeing 27 volunteers, 14 of them “freshmen,” first-timers. This time the institution was Crossroads Correctional in Cameron, Mo; a maximum-security prison.
It is one of the prisons in which I minister a few times each month, and have for about eight years.
The yard was coated in sunshine, and the concrete reflected the sun and bounced the 92 degree weather around.
Due to security issues, and in light of recent activity, the warden decided to only let one (of five) “houses” out at a time; so what had been planned for two long sessions became five shortened sessions.
A thundering NASCAR (#18) drew gasps and appreciative applause. Then a motorcycle/bicycle trick riding team did their thing…and it was great. The gospel was shared, and the offenders given the opportunity to “huddle” with team members (Behind the Walls volunteers).
As I was coordinator I roamed the yard ensuring the volunteers were interacting properly. Under direction of the yard sergeant I had to herd the men out when the sarge told me it was time.
The thrill for me is that I got to see a guy I’d not seen in 7 years; he had gone to the “hole” for a few of those years. He seems to be doing well and said he’d be coming back to my Bible study. Pray for Harley. I first met him during a KAIROS event; he was 18, sentenced to life; came hardened, God broke him, I was able to pray with him as he committed his life to Christ…
I also saw another guy for the first time in two years. He checked himself in to PC (Protective Custody) because he thought one of the gangs was after him. He advised that the PC volunteer Bible study leader had quit, and asked if I’d consider taking his place….an opportunity I am praying about. I may be able to work it out to speak to the PC guys on the Mondays I do an earlier Bible study with several offenders.
The “Behind the Walls’ teams were in two other prisons, and the total population of the three institutions is 4,922. By the end of the day it was reported that 740 offenders sought counsel, and over  250 of them said they trusted Christ Saturday.
We were also privileged to visit the two Ad/Segs (Administrative Segregation…politicallyadseg correct way of saying “the hole”). These men are out of their individual cells three…as in 3, hours weekly. We must “converse” through the crack between the door and the doorframe…I’ve been there before, it was eye opening for the other volunteers.
After dining on fine cuisine  (perhaps a stretch…I am blessed that I was incarcerated in Oregon State Prison…a “progressive” institution back then…virtually every thing we ate or drank was produced on the prison honor farm..I ate better there than I did four years in the Army…which isn’t saying much, but…) we did two more packed programs.
It was an exhausting, draining day, but laced with His presence, power and peace.
Again, if any of you are intesterested in learning more about being part of a team let me know and/or check out the websight: (CLICK HERE)
​Pray with me that what the Lord began today will be carried to completion. Pray also for the opportunity for me to continue to interact with these individuals during my “normal” ministry at Crossroads.

>Prison and Christian Camp

>I was captured by Christ while in jail awaiting a prison sentence. I now work in both youth ministry and prison ministry.

I’m struck by the similarities…it is relatively easy to make “decisions” for Christ in prison and in Christian camps.

It is a different story to live out those decisions when returning to the real world…whether from a Christian camp or a prison sentence.

As the inmates are always told just before they get out, “Don’t leave Jesus at the gate.” The same thing applies to students leaving Christian camps.

Of course a week of summer camp doesn’t compare in most ways to a 3, 5, 10 or more year prison sentence.

But the fact remains – going back to the “real” world is where the decision must be lived out in dependence on God, in discipline, in accountability, and in community.

>My Story of His Invasion

>I am now involved in Kairos Prison Ministry.

Is it Baptist? Pentencostal? Methodist? etc.

Yes, and no.

It is designed to be focused on the essentials of the Christian faith, and thus I spent the weekend with a bunch of men with whom I could debate a lot of secondary theological issues.

But I don’t have time for that.

Neither does Kairos.

The goal is to demonstrate and share Jesus with inmates in an intense, strategic, focused four-day-weekend.

As I shared my story of Christ’s invasion into my life (I wasn’t looking for Him, but I’m grateful He looked for me) it reminded me of an editorial I wrote for “The Family Life Journal” in 1997.

Oddly, I still have it, so I republish it here (with no changes….

Having just celebrated my 23rd spiritual birthday, I reflect on the goodness of God that first drew me to Himself and has more than sustained me since conversion.

Very often Christians speak of “when I found Christ.” The intent is good, the theology is not. Christ finds us! I certainly was not looking for Him, or for salvation, or even for hope in 1973. I had just been arrested and was awaiting extradition. Drugs were found in our cell, the Texas authorities removed everything except the religious material. After a few days of boredom I picked up a paperback book simply because it had the word “Prison” in the title.

As a 26-year old college-educated, alcoholic, drug selling Vietnam Vet I was introduced to the love of God as demonstrated in the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ. No human being was directly involved; I simply read the book. I had no idea there even was a Holy Spirit, but He was doing His work of conviction and drawing. I knew nothing of a trinity, nothing of the “infallibility of Scripture,” zero about predestination, and “secondary separation” would have sounded like a terrible body wound. (Which, on reflection, it is if one capitalizes the “b” in Body). All I know is that on January 30, 1974, I confessed my sins, and turned to God. Though I did not break out in a cold sweat, nor had any outward manifestation, nor tears, I simply knew that Jesus was real, that I was His, and that He was truth.

Subsequently, I was sentenced to prison, did my time, got out and went to Bible school. On this journey, I became painfully familiar with the fact many Christians seem to exist for one purpose…to argue with other Christians.

In the two decades plus of striving to walk with Christ, I’ve not seen any improvement in the infighting. I am known to be opinionated and vocal. Too often I spill my thoughts before I think them through1 but as I reflect, I am sure there are only a few things for which I’ll go to the proverbial wall.

Paramount is the deity of Jesus. He was, is, and always has been God. You don’t believe that , I don’t call upon you for silent prayer, much less have religious fellowship with you. The fact that the death for Christ has paid in full for my redemption is non-negotiable. The physical resurrection of Jesus can not be denied.

The necessity of repentance and faith in the completed work of Jesus for salvation is etched in stone (Acts 26:17-18; 26:20). The reality of heaven and hell are based on the clear words of Christ (Matt. 25:46). The return of Christ is not only a glorious hope, but part and parcel to the gospel.

Well, what about 24 hour days of creation? Are you pre-post-a millennial? What about tongues? Can you lose it? What about Christian rock? Which version is trustworthy?

Folks, when the Vietcong were trying to kill me, I didn’t care a bit about the muzzle velocity of my M16 or 50 caliber, nor did I care about the relative merits of each. I just kept my head down and shot at the enemy. I sure didn’t shoot at another GI who preferred to use a captured AK! I just wanted to stay alive and negatively impact the enemy. Maybe that’s an apropos parallel to spiritual warfare?

What spawned this thought process? I am blessed to have a perpetual calendar of Max Lucado’s writings, and the one I just read is from this book, Six Hours One Friday. I have placed it on my desk and on my bathroom mirror to be a vital reminder:

Seek the simple faith. Major on the majors. Focus on the critical. Long for God.

Though too wordy for a Lucadoism, I add, “Although you may not always see eye to eye, walk hand in hand with others saved by grace.”