Last week, Richard Friese asked me how I managed it...how I spent a decade serving as a chaplain for the Arizona State Prison System. Wasn't I afraid? To be perfectly frank, I have met many church councils that were much scarier than any prison yard! While some of my colleagues attribute their prison ministries to lofty callings such as 'serving the least of these,' I claim no noble aspirations in life. I am primarily motivated by the fact that I enjoy having fun and detest boredom. For me, prison ministry was engaging and never dull. I serve a God who frequently invites us to see the absurdities in life, to throw back our heads and laugh out loud, and who often calls us to unexpected places at unexpected times.
Let's not delude ourselves into thinking we have no connection to these inmates. Please understand that they are our fathers, our brothers, our sons, our nephews, and perhaps even reflections of ourselves. If you cannot relate on that level, let me ask you this: Have you ever felt fear, alienation, or heartbreak? Have you ever known the sting of betrayal or the poison of deep-seated resentment? Have you ever felt abandoned by those who were supposed to love you? Have you ever made a mistake? Is it not with many of our own that I have grappled with the tragic dynamics of drug and alcohol addiction? Haven't we all uttered the words 'but for the grace of God go I?' Could it not be you or me or someone we love sitting in that cell?"