Twenty years ago, when I began serving as a chaplain for Institutional Ministries, I met a fellow Christian named Wayne, who was incarcerated at Waupun Correctional Institution.
Wayne was one of twelve men at the prison who had spent more than two years in an intensive study of God’s Word with my predecessor, Chaplain Kenneth Lenz. Eventually, all twelve of these men were received as communicant members of the Wisconsin Synod, and unofficially, they formed their own congregation at the prison — Freedom Ev. Lutheran Church.
On one occasion, when I was celebrating the Lord’s Supper with Wayne, he shared with me the reason for his incarceration. After confessing his sin of murdering two women, he told me about the two life sentences he’d received, sentences, which were to be served consecutively, not concurrently.
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.” …. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:54,57
As Wayne spoke about his sin and, more importantly, his faith in his Savior Jesus, he said something I’ll always remember. “My first day out of prison will probably be my first day in heaven.” And when the Lord took Wayne home to heaven in the fall of 2007, it was his “first day out of prison” in more than thirty-three years. It was his “first day in heaven” with an eternity of days to come!
By God’s free grace and because of Jesus, my Savior, I look forward to seeing Wayne again on my own “first day in heaven,” whenever that will be.
What a privilege it is to shine the light of Jesus' love with the walled-in souls of our community!
Who goes into the correctional facilities to talk to these people?
Since Wisconsin began to expand its correctional system in the 1990s, Institutional Ministries (IM) has been blessed with a “network” of parish pastors who serve as IM Contact Pastors at a state prison. At present, there are nineteen pastors who are serving in our ministry in this special way.
These pastors serve by sharing the Word of God through Bible studies and/or one-on-one pastoral visits. And 85% - 90% of the men and women with whom they share the Gospel have had no previous contact with our ministry.
What a wonderful blessing these pastors are to the men and women who learn about their Savior Jesus! And what a blessing these pastors are to our ministry!
I was in prison and you visited me. - Matthew 25:36 EHV
How do you keep inmates connected to God’s Word?
Not only do some parish pastors serve at a state prison which is located in their area, they are also an important part of our efforts to keep men and women connected to God’s Word.
When individuals are transferred to another prison, the Institutional Ministries (IM) Contact Pastor notifies our ministry. In turn, our ministry refers the individual to another IM Chaplain/Contact Pastor so that we may, with our Lord’s blessing, keep them connected to the Word of God.
And when the individual is released from prison, if possible, our ministry refers that individual to one of our local congregations.
It’s all in an effort to nurture those who have begun to study God’s Word, so that by God’s free and faithful grace, they will continue to trust in Jesus as their Savior and enjoy life everlasting in heaven!
Learn more about our Correctional Care Ministry