A Pastor of Their Own

Aug 21, 2016

By Julie Thomas, PCA Administrative Assistant

On a recent visit to the congregation of St. Dysmas in the South Dakota State Penitentiary, I found myself sitting next to a man who was incarcerated there.  This was his second Thursday in attendance at St. Dysmas.  Before the service we were chatting about where we grew up and what brought us to St. Dysmas.  He said he liked the feeling of welcome he had received and he liked the pastor, Bob Chell.  Then the service started and we joined in the liturgy with the other men and visitors.  Pastor Bob was preaching on Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  During the sermon, the man leaned over to me and whispered, “He’s a good preacher.  Have you ever been to his church on the outside?”  I whispered back, “He doesn’t have a church on the outside.  This is his church.”  The man looked surprised and a little confused but we continued to worship.  After the service, I turned to him and said, “Pastor Bob was called here to St. Dysmas by the inmates and church councils (one from the inside and one from the outside).  This is his only call.  He belongs to you.”  The man’s eyes grew wide and he said in wonder, “He’s ours?  All ours?” He looked at Pastor Bob, who was greeting inmates and visitors around him.  He couldn’t believe that he, an incarcerated man, had a church and pastor all his own.  “Thank you, thank you for telling me that”, he said.  “I’ll definitely be back.” 

In a place where human beings have so little to call their own, PCA congregations are there solely for them.  They are run by an inmate council, along with an outside council and the pastor is all theirs.  The ownership that brings and the feeling of belonging it engenders are priceless.  It says to those incarcerated, “You matter. You are loved.”  And that can make all the difference in these men’s and women’s faith lives, which in turn can help them to succeed in prison and beyond prison.  Pastor Ed Nesselhuf saw this first hand when he started St. Dysmas in Jessup, Maryland more than 30 years ago, he saw it again and again as he planted congregations in prisons across America, and we are still seeing it today as we continue this great work.  Please know that PCA makes a difference in so many lives and that you in turn can make a difference with your gifts of presence and support.  Thank you.

Category: mission

Add Pingback