My Ministry in Rockingham County Jail

I have been involved in prison ministry since 1982.While I was studying at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA, 1982-1986, I was involved in ministry at Walpole State Prison, first as an intern, and then as Assistant Chaplain. From 1987 to 2006 I served as Protestant Chaplain in Maine State Prison. I have served as a Pastor, and a counselor. But my first love is still prison ministry.

 Currently I serve on a part-time, volunteer basis in Rockingham County Jail in New Hampshire. I raise support through a 501c3 non-profit corporation called “Isaiah 61 Ministries, Jesus came to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 61:

To proclaim good news to the poor.
to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,  to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

My ministry at the County Jail starts with an evangelistic Bible study once a week. Many inmates come, if only to get out of their cells for an hour. But often God allows me to get through to them with the gospel, or at least get them thinking about it. Then I meet with them individually. They really need someone to talk to. I try to be a good listener By showing them I care, I earn the right to speak. I share scripture with them, pray with them, build relationships with them, and the Lord does the rest.

The idea that they can really be changed,  healed,, transformed, and “born again” is compelling to men in jail. Too often they are convinced that they are failures, losers, hopeless addicts, and that they can never change.

As children, they were shamed and condemned, sometimes by their own families. Some of them had parents who told them, “You’re no damn good, and you’ll never be any good. You’ll never amount to anything. You’re worthless. Get out of my sight.” Children internalize this kind of abuse. They believe that’s who they really are, and so when they become adults, they act it out.

They use drugs, they steal, they go to jail, and they really believe that’s who they are. And the system reinforces their negative self-image and their self-hatred. They are made to feel like criminals, failures, and losers. They think that they’re just bad, and they always will be bad.

Until they find Jesus and receive his Holy Spirit to live inside them as their comforter and counselor, addicts live every day under condemnation. But, “There is  no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2

When I talk to the men in the jail, I’m always trying to get them to see themselves the way God sees them, rather than the way the Accuser sees them. I tell them, “Father God created you, and he doesn’t make junk. Jesus paid a great price on the cross to redeem you. You are precious in his sight. And the Holy Spirit has come to live within you. You are his holy temple.”

I tell them, “God wants to help you bear much fruit for him, as you abide in Jesus (John 15:1-8.) The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23) God knows that he can bring these powerful, beautiful, holy character traits out in you, by his Holy Spirit at work within you.  In Christ, you can be a saint! The State of New Hampshire may think you’re a felon. Your own family may think you’re a failure and a loser. You may even think of yourself as a hopeless addict. But God sees you as an overcomer, a winner, and a hero. Why not give your life to him, and see what he can do for you.”

By being a brother and a friend to them, treating them as God’s children rather than criminals, I hope to help them see themselves see themselves as born again Christians, made new and transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit, raised up with Christ to a new and more abundant life,  saved, redeemed, ransomed from sin, reconciled to God.

Please pray for these men, that the Lord may give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that they may know him better. Pray that the eyes of their hearts may be enlightened, so they may know the hope to which he has called them, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:17-19)