Jail ministry changes lives of both inmates, volunteers
by Betty McMahan
Editor’s note: From Oct. 31-Nov. 23, some 90 Oklahoma disaster relief volunteers cooked meals at the Oklahoma County Detention Center. This is a testimony of what transpired by a chaplain who served there.
Today the angels in Heaven rejoiced as three young inmates ages 18, 19 and 21 accepted the Lord Jesus. What a glorious time for all of us disaster relief team members who witnessed that. Please, please pray for these young men so they can start a new life with Jesus.
No sooner had Justin prayed and received Jesus, he was taken away to serve his time at another facility because his brother was serving with him. Officials didn’t know they were brothers because they have different names and look nothing alike.
One of the new believers has a Bible, but the other two want Bibles. I told them I would get them a Bible. When I was at a disaster at Harrah/Newalla, one kind soul asked me if I could use Bibles, and I took six.
Now two of those will go to these young believers. I want to contact the head chaplain, I can’t remember his name, but have met him at the jail and we visited twice . . . Dan I think. (Editor’s Note: Don Duncan, chaplain, Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office) I think he would be good for these young men to encourage them.
I give thanks to the Lord that He gave opportunity for those young men to accept Jesus, for in the space of a short time Justin was gone . . . this just goes to show me that God is still in the saving business and on His timetable.
These young men simply could not do enough to help us. One wants to get into disaster relief and asked me how to do it. I shared with him (that) he should get out and then contact a Baptist church—find the one the Holy Spirit leads him to—and then get trained. I encouraged him to clean his life up and the Lord will use him to encourage others who are making the wrong decisions in life.
We shared our food, our drinks, hot chocolate, the fire, (heat from the cooking pots) and as these young men worked, I thought about the Bible story where the father welcomes home the prodigal son. These young men need an earthly father to guide them, and my prayer is the Lord will provide.
They love to sing and joined right in on a cute song about all of God’s creatures having a place in the choir.
Our blue cap, Grant Rhodes, has such a heart for these young men. Early this morning when the temperature was still in the 30s and a sharp wind blowing, he noticed the guys only had on those sloppy white sweat pants and thin T-shirts. Their teeth were chattering, and they were so cold.
One came and asked Grant what he could do to help him, and Grant pointed to the pots getting the water hot and said, ‘see that pot over there getting hot?’ ‘You, (pointing to one) go over there and watch that water and when it boils let me know, and you (pointing to the second one) you go over and watch the second pot and tell me when the water boils.”
They gladly went and opened their shirt from the bottom to allow the heat to warm their bodies. We worked shoulder to shoulder with them, and they were so respectful of us. It’s like they stand in awe of our work.
I asked the one who is interested in disaster work if he had ever seen anything like this in action and he said, “Never.” And then he asked how he could become a volunteer.
When our shift was over, several of the inmates were in the building where we can go for a short break and warm up, and when Grant asked for someone to pray for our dismissal, Corporal Still prayed again and his prayer just touched us the same as it did yesterday. He is wise beyond his young years, pleading for the lives of the three who accepted the Lord, for them to be wise in choice making after this. He prayed for our disaster relief team and for the facility and duties of the officers there. He is a dynamic witness for Jesus there.
He stated “the disaster team had brought light to a very dark place,” and said he so appreciated it.
He is the same young man who gave his pin that was presented to him when he was promoted to corporal to the chaplains there—Randy and me. I had an eagle on my hat, and I gave it to him. It was truly a humbling experience for me to accept a pin just for helping cook food. Oh, my!
The inmates say the food is better, (it’s the same food they eat all the time), and we told them it was cooked with love. They said they understood.
Corporal Still stated our very presence has made a direct difference in the whole jail from the top floor down.
At one point in the morning, I went to the ladies room and an officer was standing looking at a contraption on the floor. I’m not bashful, so I asked him what that thing was. It was covered with dust, looked ancient like it hadn’t been used in months, and he stated it was a butane heater, and he was trying to fix it so we could have some heat in the open area where we work. I thanked him for his generosity. I was so touched that he even thought about getting us heat.
We prayed and held hands. I held the hand of a huge, 6’4” black man, and just as we bowed our heads, I heard him in a soft voice say, “Lord fall upon us.” During the prayer, he uttered a “yes,” or an “amen” or a “thank you, Lord.”
Finished, I reached up and hugged his neck and he said softly in my ear, “Miss Betty, you is OK.”
The youngest inmate said to me; not “are you coming back tomorrow,” but “will you come back tomorrow?” And I looked him in the eye and said, “Yes, I am coming back, for I want to work with you.” His smile froze on his face.
I also wanted to say to him, “You know young man, my idea of getting up at 3 a.m. every morning and freezing here at 5:30 a.m. slinging hot dogs in a cooker is not my idea of fun, but I didn’t.” If Jesus can die for my sins and my sins alone, I owe big time. And I will serve as long as I can share the Love of Jesus with anyone. Listening to those three young men pray that sinner’s prayer set a fire under me that I pray isn’t going to go out.
Betty McMahan and her husband, Harold, serve as disaster relief chaplains. They are members of Maguire Church in Union Association.