I was released from prison this last time on June 1, 2010. After spending well over 27 years total behind bars (4 years as a juvenile, and 23 years as an adult), the LAST thing I had on my mind was going back to them! But the Lord had other plans! And not only plans to use me, but to show that He can even open steel doors!
Ya see, one is not supposed to be allowed into the prison system in Wisconsin as a volunteer if they are still on probation or parole, or at the very least have been out for 2 or more years. You can’t even go in to visit another inmate unless you have been out for 2 years. I received a phone call one day from a Chaplain at one of the prison’s who told me his wife had heard me on the radio and thought I might be perfect to come in and talk to the guys. This all took place only about 18 months after my release. I told him I would love to, but was he aware that I was not only just released from prison, but released from the very prison he was calling from! He said “oh” and told me he would talk to the Security Director and Program Director and see what he could do. I never thought I’d hear from him again, and he surprised me when he contacted me again a couple weeks later and told me to come in, that the Program Director would like to talk to me. God was definitely in this! I got in! And because I got on there, I was in the system, and pretty much all the prisons had to let me in. There is still one or two who don’t, but God will change that if it is in His plans.
Since then I go to that particular prison twice a month: The first Thursday for one-on-one Pastoral visits, and on the second Sunday to give sermons. There are there are times when the schedule with my youth group doesn’t allow me to make it some of those Sundays, I am always in need of others who would be willing to take that step and be willing to become volunteers to do prison ministry! Please consider it, there is a BIG need! In the last 4 years of doing jail and prison ministry I have been in many jails, prisons, and juvenile detention centers in a few states. Jackson Prison here in Wisconsin is another prison I am at frequently.
It didn’t take me long to understand the Lord’s reason for getting me back into the very places I least wanted to be! I spent most of my life in these institutions, and these guys know me! I was so hardcore into Satanism and the occult that at one point early in my incarceration as an adult I saw that many other religions such as: Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Native American, and others were allowed to practice their religion in the Chapels, but there was nothing for the pagans. So in 1985 I began a 5 years battle against the Department of Corrections to get the Wiccan/Pagan Religious group recognized as a religion and be allowed to hold services in the Chapel like all the others. I won that battle, and to this very day the Wiccan/Pagan religious groups are still being held in all our Chapels in the Wisconsin Prison system. So, between that and being known in whatever prison I was in as not only someone highly involved in the occult, but someone who detested Christians more than anything, and being VERY vocal about it, and being VERY proactive at harassing the bible-thumpers in prison and attempting to take them up out of their game; these guys knew the old me. What better testimony than coming back into the prisons as one of the very people I hated so much and humbly admit I was wrong and to show the guys what the Lord has accomplished in my life!! Every prison I go into here in Wisconsin I meet up with guys I have done time with; some who were even my roomates, and they are totally blown away!! What a testimony to the Lord!!
I am part of a few different Prison and Jail Ministries, but mostly I go in under the Ministry representing our Faith Riders: Here are some of the other ministries I am honored to be a part of:
Good News Jail and Prison Ministry
In January 2009 I was born again! This happened as a result of a faith based drug and alcohol program the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry had in the jail. Chaplain Cliff Wolterstorff heads up this ministry at the Chippewa Falls County Jail. The year I got out they asked me to come and speak at one of their yearly fundraisers and give my testimony. Since then I have had a part in most of their gathering and fundraisers, whether speaking or prayer. Though the County Jails here in the area have been MUCH harder about letting me come in as a volunteer, just recently (November 2015) the Eau Claire County jail allowed me to come in behind the glass for Pastoral visits!! This has lead to a mentoring opportunity to one of the inmates I visited who I am working alongside of now!
In 2013 I made the decision to take the training and become a volunteer with Chuck Colson’s Prison Fellowship after I learned of their mentoring program. In my opinion this is the MOST important aspect of doing prison ministry, yet this is where there is the biggest lack! Chuck Colson knew the importance of mentorship (Discipleship) not only because he did time himself, but because it is also Biblical. It’s one thing to go into the prisons and giver sermons, do Bible studies, or other teaching classes, but its another to come alongside these men and women shortly before their release and help guide them for at least the first 6 months after they are released.
They need mentorship before their release to help guide them in making goals for after their release, long term and short term goals in all areas of their life. They need spiritual guidance and just allowing them to know someone cares enough about them to come alongside them and help.
The mentorship after their release includes being the one to pick them up, or at the very least be with them when they go to their first meeting with their Probation/Parole officer. To hold them accountable in following the goals set before their release, and helping them out when possible. Not “enabling” them, but being there for them when they need you for something. To continue with their spiritual walk, and to help them get hooked up with a Church and Church groups. To help them make good decisions, and hold them accountable when they don’t. To help replace their old friends with new ones who are born again Christians. The first 6 months of an inmates release are the most crucial ones, and this is when most inmates who are released make it or break it.
As a Prison fellowship volunteer I am typically a table leader when we get into the prisons for our two day seminars. I have also been invited to a few Prison fellowship conferences to speak to other volunteers and train them in how to minister to inmates. The State of Wisconsin is in great need of Prison Fellowship volunteers. We do not have a big enough presence yet to be able to kick the mentorship program into gear. Won’t you please be in prayer about becoming a volunteer for Prison Fellowship. You can contact them and get more info at: www.prisonfellowship.org .
513 Free is another ministry I have the honor of serving with! Their visions statement is: “513 free is called my Jesus to boldly share the Gospel with the incarcerated and those at-risk. We do that by using the spiritual and creative gifts God has blessed us with (music, teaching, arts, service & relationships).”
I originally met 513 Free when myself and Tommy Allen were asked to give our testimony at a youth lock-in at Action City about 4 years ago. 513 Free was the worship band performing that night, and we all hit it off when we met. I was asked by them if I would be willing to come into one of the prisons with them and give a testimony in between their worship set. We have been working together ever since!
I love working with 513 free because I know their hearts for those behind bars and for those who are at risk, youth as well as adults. They bring a whole new experience to the guys when they come in to minister. Not just with their music, but with their attitudes, their obvious love for them, and with some of the other speakers they bring in with them to share the Gospel. Other than ministering to the guys at my regular prison, traveling and ministering with 513 Free is the one thing I really look forward to in going into the prisons. They only get to see those they minister to once in awhile, but I go to these places frequently and get to hear all the testimonies of the guys who were impacted as a result of 513 Free’s ministry.
Click on this link for the Pilot issue of the “Pen Project” magazine, a ministry of 513 Free alongside inmates from the Jackson Corr. Inst. This is an attempt to give inmates a voice to others outside the walls and to inmates in other institutions. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ and we want their voices to be hear. All artwork is done by inmates, and articles include: testimonies, meditations, poems, thoughts, sermons, recipes, music, etc.