Hello, my name is Jason Reece and I am the Logan County jail chaplain through Oklahoma Jail and Prison Ministries (OJPM), but I am also a drug addict/alcoholic who happens to be in recovery. Here is a bit of my story.
I was born and raised in Guthrie, Oklahoma. I started out at Acton’s Furniture and Pianos where I worked from 1996-2009. Working there changed my life in a few different ways, some for the good and some for the bad. I currently own an appliance repair business in Guthrie that I absolutely love. Working at Acton’s also required picking up heavy objects which led to a significant back injury which led to opiates. The first time I was prescribed opiates was in the summer of 2007. This cycle repeated itself over the course of the next two years.
One evening my wife and I were out at dinner and I ordered a glass of wine not thinking that I had ingested a couple opiates earlier and once I felt that combination of the two it was something I needed more of. That feeling ruled my life over the next 6 years and led to being arrested multiple times for DUI.
I could not get over having my name shamed and had become a bitter man. In all of this my wife is on her last straw. I remember one evening as I was going to the store to buy more alcohol with pills in my pocket for my cocktail my wife grabbed my hand and hit her knees and begged and pleaded with me to not go, to not continue to do this to our family. I looked her in the eye and forcefully got away from her and told her that if she had to divorce me to do so, that I was doing nothing wrong. That was the night I lost my wife. I continued to stay at the house but something was different with Marsha. I let this go on for about two weeks, but I knew something had to change so I moved out even though I did not want to.
My wife filed for divorce and I had two more DUIs. Then in 2015, while I was in the Logan County jail (I was outside of the courthouse sweeping as a trustee), one morning I happen to see what appeared to be my wife’s Tahoe driving up. As the vehicle approached, I looked up and the two passenger side windows rolled down and it was my two youngest children. At that very instant my life changed. Once they were out of sight, I walked up those detention center stairs and entered the restroom and I hit my knees and I cried out to God like I had never cried out before and life-change occurred at that very moment.
Addiction cost me precious things: I missed my youngest boys first steps (rehab) and missed my daughter’s graduation (incarceration). I have entered three different rehabs, one mental institution and had 13 accidents in 11 months (three of those accidents were totals).
Today I am a good father, I am a good husband and I am a good friend. The same drug court that was there for me in my darkest times is where I help co-counsel several of the men going through what I went through. I am also a very small part of a great organization called OJPM where I get to go into the same place where I was a hopeless soul and share the good news.
Today I am an asset. Today I walk other men through the process of getting their life back together. Today I have found my purpose.
And the greatest thing about all of this is I get to see my wife smile every day. I would tell her when we were separated that I knew that I could make her the happiest woman alive. Today I get to see that. I will end with this. If you put Christ at the center of your life magical things will occur. God bless you all and thank you for allowing me to share my story.
John 8:36 says, “If the son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.”
“Sing, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away your judgments, He has cast out your enemy. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; You shall see disaster no more. In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem: ‘Do not fear; Zion, let not your hands be weak. The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.’ ‘I will gather those who sorrow over the appointed assembly, Who are among you, To whom its reproach is a burden. Behold, at that time I will deal with all who afflict you; I will save the lame, And gather those who were driven out; I will appoint them for praise and fame In every land where they were put to shame. At that time I will bring you back, Even at the time I gather you; For I will give you fame and praise Among all the peoples of the earth, When I return your captives before your eyes,’ Says the Lord” (New King James Version, Zephaniah 3:14-20).
The Lord has shown me so many times over the last six years this promise. I really believe He has out done every other time this year. First, the same week that I finished my probation time is the same week that the video of my testimony was released. I am very grateful to the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma for giving me this opportunity.
Second, was being able to see my son, Kevin Heffron Jr. grow to be a man. In March he turned 18, May he graduated high school and in June he left to go to Marine Boot Camp. Just this last week, the funds were provided for us, my daughter, grandson, nephew and myself, to travel to San Diego, California to see him graduate a Marine. I am so proud to be able to share the following pictures that were taken to be able to savor the moment.
Recently one of my racquetball buddies and I were talking after a match. “Will you be here tomorrow?” he asked. I told him no because I would be in jail. This piqued his curiosity and he wanted to know what I meant.
I told him about my ministry as a volunteer chaplain with OJPM. He kept asking questions. He seemed to really want to know what it was like. I described the sixth-floor chaplain’s office at the Oklahoma County Jail. I shared how most of the inmates come there because they want prayer, they want hope, and they want to hear from God’s Word.
This led to a frank discussion of the gospel, the Lord’s offer of forgiveness and new life in Christ. He listened respectfully as I told him that is what we all need, whether we are prisoners in a jail or “respectable” people on the outside. We are all sinners. I told him about the Lord’s gracious offer of eternal life through faith in Jesus the savior. He’s thinking about all this and I am praying for him.
One of the questions he asked had to do with why I would want to do this. I told him I do this because I have been blessed with a great spiritual heritage and excellent training. Most of the people I meet in the jail have not had these advantages. I feel a solemn responsibility to share the blessings I have been given.
Another thing I told my friend is that prisoners are human beings created in the image of God. As such they have value in His sight. I told him what George Rennix said some time ago: “When I go into the jail, I want to consider those inmates more valuable than myself,” commenting on Philippians 2:3. I want the same thing. I think one reason prisoners want to see a chaplain is that they are treated with respect as they are told about God’s love for them.
As a retired pastor I have the Bible knowledge, the desire to proclaim the gospel of Christ, and the discretionary time which allows me to serve. The inmates are spiritually hungry, and most of them are receptive to the gospel. There is a great need for chaplains, and it is a privilege to serve the Lord in this way.
I also told my friend about the joy I feel when a person, broken by sin and repentant, opens his heart to Jesus Christ to receive the gift of eternal life by faith alone. There is joy in the presence of the angels and there is joy in the Oklahoma County Jail.
I appreciate the prayers in the beautiful little book, Valley of Vision. Here is one that sums up my motivation for service with OJPM:
Thou hast knowledge of my soul’s secret principles
And art aware of my desire to spread the gospel.
Make me an almoner (one who gives generously) to give Thy bounties to the indigent,
Comfort to the mentally ill,
Restoration to the sin-diseased,
Hope to the despairing,
Joy to the sorrowing,
Love to the prodigals.
Blow away the ashes of unbelief by Thy Spirit’s breath
And give me light, fire and warmth of love. Amen.
As I began to take on an interim role as chaplain at the Canadian County jail on March 1, 2019, I quickly realized this was not going to be a cakewalk assignment. The Canadian County jail is a crowded facility with not much space to operate. The preferred “one-on-one” OJPM inmate method was difficult from day one due to lack of allocated space.
In the four months going there, I would say only once have consecutive weeks been the same. One week I would meet with three to four inmates at a time in a room near a detention officer’s desk. The next week I would actually get “one-on-one space” in the back of the jail. However, through it all the staff at Canadian County has been a dedicated, hard-working team and does what it takes to help in any way possible.
I also found out that God will always have His way, even when things look desperate for the chaplain. On Wednesday, June 26th, I arrived at my appointed time not knowing what to expect. Officer Grove, program director, brought me through the hallway and we went to two pods and picked up five offenders who wanted to visit. As we were walking through the hallways headed to the visiting area, we ran into Major Moore, who exclaimed both the visiting and multipurpose room were being used by DHS and a rehab assessment team.
After some discussion on what to do, through the door one of the inmates shouted; hey Major, “where two or three or more are gathered, I am in your midst” (Matt. 18:20), we can sit on the floor in the hallway while you guys get Chaplain Bill a chair. He agreed and that is exactly what we did.
It was a very busy hallway and there were six to seven women and an officer just a few feet down the hallway. Low and behold, as I began to speak the hallway got silent and I noticed that everyone was listening, not a word was being said and there was total silence in an otherwise busy hallway.
After speaking back and forth and listening to the men’s input, about 50 minutes later I told them I would be taking prayer requests. As I asked the first offender what his prayers requests were, he looked at me and tears began to flow and he admitted that he was the one I was talking about. He was as low and as lost as he had ever been in life.
Through his tears he spoke clearly as to how he had been watching the other inmates day in and day out (two were pod prayer leaders) talk about Jesus, about His forgiveness, His shed blood, His healing ways and how we can have salvation through Him. I immediately sensed he was ready for an invitation, and he readily accepted, repented and asked Jesus into his heart. It was absolutely surreal as he and the other four inmates rose up off the floor simultaneously in jubilation, hugging and celebration.
Can you imagine what they were doing in Heaven?
Thank you Canadian County Sheriff Chris West for allowing OJPM a seat at the table each and every week – the table may move but our awesome God will be wherever two or three or more are gathered in His name.
Oh, as I returned the following week, I found out after celebrating with many of his cellmates, our new believer took a short nap and was awakened by officers to be fully released – another eruption of joy throughout the pod ensued! What a great God we get to serve.