Slower Than the Second Coming

Jul 02, 2017

By Mary Mortenson, Executive Director, Prison Congregations of America

His name was Rev. John O’Neal.  I only met him once, when PCA founder, Rev. Ed Nesselhuf and I were in the Seattle area to visit Living Stones Prison Congregation.  John and Ed had been firm and tenacious partners in getting that congregation started, and it was an honor to meet him and his wife Margaret, and to stay in their home.  This was a special trip as it was a few months after I was hired and right before Ed retired as PCA’s Director.  This trip was one of many visits to prison congregations through which Ed passed the torch of his beloved ministry to me. 

I treasure many memories of that trip, many of which I am blessed to share again and again with Margaret, who has graced these blog pages with her own powerful writing.  Among the seeming lifetime of lessons I’ve learned since that visit in 2008, one from that time I’ve never forgotten.   Once in conversation, I remember John saying that someone or something was, “Slower than the Second Coming.”  I loved the phrase and was struck by how accurately it described what sometimes seems like endless waiting.

Sometimes it can seem like this work moves “slower than the Second Coming.”  We plan and negotiate and train and try to inspire, and yet things seem to plod along as all of the stakeholders find what they need to be comfortable with the PCA Model of Prison Ministry.  And then, just when we wonder if we’ll ever take another step, we find ourselves running to catch up.  Just the other day a colleague said, “I thought we were going nowhere and now we’re in a whirlwind.”  God works like that, I think.   The slow times as well as the whirlwind times are all evidence that at the center of all that we do is God and God isn’t going to let us go.  Indeed, this tension is one of the many things I love about my job.

I have come to realize that the real beauty of John’s comment about being slower than the Second Coming is the sure and certain belief that the Second Coming will, indeed come, and it will be worth the wait.  In fact for John and Ed - these two strong and faithful friends – the Second Coming has come as they have each walked into the arms of their Creator, leaving all who loved them in this life to continue the Holy Wait.  Bless the memories of John O’Neal and Ed Nesselhuf.

Category: Development

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Posted by Kathleen O'Neal Law on
Dear Ms. Mortenson,
As I read your letter I couldn't help but tear up as I read your loving and respectful comments about my beloved father John O'Neal. I miss him terribly and he offered some wonderful tidbits of inspiration throughout my life. Contrary to the family tradition, I didn't go into the ministry as my brother & Margaret but that doesn't say that I am any less spiritual and devoted to our Lord and Savior. I just chose a different path as did my sister. Thank you for a wonderful remembrance. Daddy accomplished so many wonderful things during his lifetime.
Blessings to you and your great work with the PCA.
Kathleen O'Neal Law
Wichita Falls, Texas
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