Transforming people on both sides of the bars; the story of Karyn and Anna
Anna recalls that it was a night to remember when Karyn said, “If you want to meet people ready to hear the gospel you just have to go to the county jail.”
That 2017 statement was made during a weekly women’s Bible study at Calvary Chapel, Oklahoma City, where Karyn mentioned a meaningful encounter with an inmate at the Oklahoma County Jail. After the study a young woman named Anna approached her wanting to learn more. Karyn’s statement about inmates ready to hear the gospel stayed on Anna’s mind for several weeks as she prayed for discernment on which direction to take regarding this incredible ministry.
Throughout the next few weeks Karyn shared with Anna how she came to serve in this ministry, honestly answering all of her questions, helping her through the application process and becoming a prayer partner.
“Throughout our discussions,” Karyn recalls, “it became obvious that the Holy Spirit was calling Anna to the adolescent’s ministry. Our great God was calling the young Christ follower to the young Christ needers!”
Many years ago Karyn investigated OJPM and has felt privileged to meet many female inmates enduring a series of painful consequences and in most cases feeling very far from the love of their Savior.
As she continued speaking with women in desperate need of Jesus, Karyn and all others in the ministry have planted seeds in many and witnessed miraculous transformations in others who have given up a lifestyle of sin for a life sold out to Jesus Christ.
Karyn didn’t know that there would be someone present at that gathering who would be called to this ministry, but Anna is so thankful that she was willing to share about OJPM and come along side her throughout this journey.
There is no greater example of meeting people where they are than that of Jesus Himself. It’s important to remember that it’s not about whether you think there will be someone present who will be open to serving in the ministry, but it’s about planting seeds that God will later harvest in His perfect timing to continue building His kingdom.
Karyn wrote, “We need to generously salt our conversations with our beliefs. In the same way that OJPM volunteers simply show up to the locations of inmates and in faith open their mouths through which God speaks Life-giving words: in that same manner, when we mention this great ministry, which may be ‘Oklahoma’s best-kept secret,’ our great God does all the rest!”
My relationship with God goes back to my childhood. I was born and raised a cradle Catholic. I attended Catholic school through the 8th grade. My family attended mass every Sunday, served in the church and followed faithfully the teachings of the Catholic Church. I was baptized as an infant and was fully initiated into the church after stating my intentions through the sacrament of Confirmation at the age of 13. During my high school and college years, my faith life struggled. I attended church, but only because I knew it was the right thing to do, not because I wanted to be there to worship my Creator. I met my wife, Megan, my senior year of college and continued on with my sinful habits. It wasn’t until our relationship began to get serious that we brought up the question about our future family and how we would raise our children. Coming from different backgrounds, Megan, Protestant, “One of those evangelicals” and me Catholic, our beliefs were somewhat different and neither of us were ready to budge.
In August 2010, I moved to Oklahoma City and God began transforming my life. My work mentor Patrick McBride had frequent discussion with me about faith, and Megan and my situation. We began reading the Word together and he invited me to a Bible study. After studying through the book of Galatians, I realized for the first time, what Jesus‘ atoning death really meant. I always professed Jesus as God, who died for my sins and repented through the sacrament of confession, but my life was far from being Christlike. God had convicted me of my sin, and my need for Him in my life. Megan and I needed to figure out what God was calling us to and I couldn’t understand without knowing Christ. In 2012, I was baptized at Henderson Hills Baptist Church and rededicated my life to Christ.
A friend introduced me to OJPM and invited me for a tour and to find out a little more about the ministry. At first, I was reluctant. I didn’t want to enter into a jail on my own will, but God kept pushing and I agreed to check it out. The day of the tour, I was nervous. My heart was racing; I am pretty sure it wasn’t the rush of knowing I would have the opportunity to share the gospel. It was most definitely out of fear. Deut 31:8 was my stronghold. “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” After entering and touring the Juvenile Detention Center, I felt the Lord calling me to give OJPM a chance. It couldn’t be more convenient for me, walk over from Chesapeake Energy Corporation on my lunch break, share the gospel, and let the Lord use me as he wills. I just wanted to be obedient.
It has now been five years since I said yes to the Lord’s call of ministry at OJPM (Juvenile Detention Center). Those years have been full of humbling, eye opening, sweet and enjoyable times. I’ve learned a lot through this process and have grown in my love for evangelism. I’m super encouraged by God’s amazing work through OJPM. It’s all about God’s glory. It is His will that is accomplished. I am just called to rest in the grace of the Lord Jesus and be obedient to His calling. It’s been amazing watching first hand His saving power.
As OJPM chaplains, we head to our various ministry posts each week knowing that the Holy Spirit will be with us as we share the gospel message with those sitting before us. “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). I like to say that most of the time, we show up and see God move as we get to watch and share.
While pastors are speakers, we as chaplains are listeners. We listen to each story then weave in responses, along with God’s Word and the presence of the Holy Spirit. On a recent Tuesday at Cleveland County jail, I had a 24-year-old inmate come in; a four year undercover heroin addict.
Michael had been praying the night before that he would get a chance to see a chaplain, when low and behold his opportunity came. Michael has six-year-old twins (a boy and a girl) and he was overwhelmed in finding a way to get out of his terribly addicted life. Through discussion, prayer and a sea of tears, Michael asked Jesus to come into his heart, forgive him for his transgressions, heal his addictions and that he would follow Him the rest of his life.
That same evening, I was reminded of a non-contact visit (behind glass) I had promised a man at my church. The new year had gotten so busy and I had just forgotten about this young man. I called on him and as I looked back over my shoulder I could tell it was very busy in the main visitation hall.
It was 6:00 P.M. when I wrapped up and by then the main foyer was totally quiet. While leaving I noticed there was only one person in the room, a woman who looked pretty anxious. I stepped over, introduced myself, and asked her if there was anything I could pray for her about.
She politely said, “Why yes, pray for my son, he is here in jail.” I asked her what her son’s name was, and she said, “Michael.” The name Michael resonated with me for some reason and I opened my Bible to my prayer book where I keep prayer requests of each inmate I see.
I asked her, “Ma’am, is your son 24 years old?” She said, “Yes sir.” I asked, “If he was a severe heroin addict?” Again, she said, “Yes.” I asked, “If he had twins who were six years old?” She said, “Why, yes he does.”
As she indicated there was no hope for him, that he was as low as he could ever get in his life, I was able to let her know, that her son asked Jesus to come into his heart on that very morning.
Oh my, the tears that filled that foyer were incredible. She thanked me over and over and told me she was about to speak to him on the jail’s video monitoring system. I can only imagine the tears from both that ensued in their visit.
What a joyous prayer we shared with each other!
As I also like to say, “You can’t make this stuff up.” I am so very proud to be a member of the OJPM chaplain team.
Monday, February 5, 2018 Sister Gina, OJPM President Bill Farley, Executive Chaplain Tim Gentry joined with OU Softball Assistant Coach Jimmy Gasso, Softball Players Kelsey Arnold and Melanie Olmos to encourage the residents.