A Timely Reminder from OCPM

I entered the women’s prison with my keyboard on my hip and my Bible in my hand. My plan was to bring them to Christ through music and psalms. I had good intentions but God had other plans.

I surveyed the scene, praying the Jesus Prayer intensely. Lord Jesus Christ Son of God have mercy on me a sinner. Such bedlam and cursing I had never seen. They looked me in the eye. I looked back with a “Holy Mother of God help them and help me” smile. While I was not sure of how to proceed, I knew that what comes from the heart, reaches the heart.

I asked someone to pray. Then I prayed standard opening Orthodox prayers. We chanted the 23rd psalm. Then I opened with 2 songs: This little light of mine and amazing grace. I thought I had things under control, when suddenly a large women twice my size approached me.
“Give me that keyboard,” she demanded. Flabbergasted, I mumbled “Sure.”

With her large hands, she turned that flimsy keyboard into an instrument more beautiful than David’s harp. The beastly attitudes faded. Loving voices lofted through the prison. Yes it is true. When words fail, music speaks (Hans Christian Anderson).

Alas, I was the one whose beastly holier than thou attitude was healed. Alas, I saw how God gives his gifts as he wills, and often hides them in prison. Alas, the women learned to love God and each other through music. Alas, the healing presence of Christ runs both ways.

I volunteered an inch but God showed us His mile. I sang a song but God has a song for everyone. Yes it is true, as the mother of Fr Moses Berry tells us: God loves all the flowers in His Garden.

Dr. Carla Thomas
OCPM Board Member

Beyond the Bars Blog

Making Rounds as a Prison Chaplain

In making rounds today, I was stopped by an inmate who wanted to talk. The question he asked is; “Will Christ forgive me for my sins and transgressions.”? It is important to note the words of St. Paul who said; “Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
(Galatians 6:1-2)

How often have we asked this same and important question in our own lives? Asking this question takes spiritual insight. To be with someone who wants to change his life and allow Christ to make his entry into his heart allows the chaplain to be a powerful witness to the love and forgiveness of God.

Time is a precious commodity we are all given. To find time to ask the all-important question of God’s forgiveness can become transformative. To pray with someone who wants to be forgiven is illuminating. As a chaplain, I see the light of Christ piercing the darkness of this world, especially, the loneliness and forgotten inmate sitting in his cell who is doing time, who is able to carve out of his humble existence the beginning of a priceless relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

This encounter took about forty-five minutes of listening, and praying. Making rounds and the ministry of presence as a chaplain, is making yourself available, allowing to be stopped and make contact with someone who is ready to change, ready to take an inventory of his life. In this encounter, I was able to teach the inmate the Jesus Prayer.

Not everyone is able to make rounds in the prison, however, all of us can deepen our relationship with Jesus Christ, and make a commitment to OCPM. If you are grateful for all the blessings you have received in life, you too can be on the road of spiritual self-discovery and support this all important mission of OCPM to become partners with us, in finding the lost sons and daughters who have been derailed in life.

The joy of making rounds is finding and building a relationship with someone and to let them know they are not forgotten. We ended the discussion with both of us bowing our heads in humble gratitude and quietly reciting the Jesus prayer; “O Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, Have Mercy Upon Me a Sinner”

-The Very Reverend John Kowalczyk, Prison Chaplain & Secretary of the Board of OCPM