March 30th, 2011 at 7:00 am
They lead the nation in divorces, suicide, substance abuse and spousal abuse. They are correctional officers who work to keep our state safe.
Not every officer exists in this situation, but because their jobs are in such a tough environment dealing with substance abuse, violence and rebellion, it is often hard for them to turn off their reactions to what they see all day in prison once they return home.
“You think about this, here you are having to watch these cons play these games,” said David Valentine, pastor of Covenant Fellowship in Huntsville. “It is a game and it is a deadly game. Now you go home and you have to put away, take off the hat of correctional officer. And instead of a game environment where someone is trying to take advantage or use you or gain advantage over you, you are going back into the home where it’s love, unconditional love, unconditional forgiveness. And most of these guys aren’t able to make that switch.”
As David began leading prison ministry efforts in the Huntsville more than 10 years ago, he knew that the people who needed hope in that area went well beyond the prison population. He saw this group of officers who needed just as much love, support, hope and encouragement as anyone else they were dealing with under prison ministry.
So he started intentionally engaging the officers, building friendships and trust through little conversations with them each and every time he checked in and out of the prisons as he went to lead offender mentoring and Bible study programs.
“If you go in my office right now, it’s full of candy for the officers,” David said. “We are just trying to break down barriers. They get to know me and my staff, so what happens with that is when they have a crisis in their lives, the wardens call us. They ask if we can come help them in this crisis.”
The last week of February, David said that this very event happened in his life. The Warden at the Wynn Unit in Huntsville called him and said that one of his officers, Julie R., needed someone to come talk with her.
“Two weeks ago, I led a lieutenant to Christ,” David said. “She was having a personal issue and the wardens said call the pastor. They gave us a call, we went over there to visit and she was hurting. The only way that this lady was going to have peace in her life was to have the peace of Christ. She wasn’t a believer, and we introduced her to Jesus. She has placed her faith in Jesus and we will be baptizing her soon. And she has been in church ever since.”
Not long after Julie started coming to Covenant Fellowship, he husband, Xavier, began coming with her too.
“And now what is even cooler is that she has brought her husband who isn’t a believer,” David said. “I had lunch with him yesterday. And he is this close to trusting Christ. God is moving.”
By March 20, Xavier had placed his faith in Jesus Christ, and he and his wife were baptized in the evening service at Covenant Fellowship.
Julie and Xavier are example sof thousands of other officers who are in need of a listening ear, the hope of Christ and an encouraging Christ community. Maybe you aren’t called to go into the prison to minister to the offenders, but don’t forget about the officers who serve day in and day out to keep the Texas Department of Criminal justice running.
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The other day before I left for work, I plugged my ipod into the car speakers and hit the road. I began driving down Highway 75 in Dallas with a worship playlist playing in the background.
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