God Wants You To

Aug 20, 2017

by Rev. Paul Stone, The Church of the Damascus Road, Ft. Dodge and Rockwell City, IA, and PCA board member
I am pastor of a 2-point prison congregation in the Fort Dodge and North Central Correctional Facilities in North Central Iowa, The Church of The Damascus Road, (CoDR). I went basically straight through 4 years of college at Augustana in Rock Island, Illinois and 4 years of seminary at The Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.  During my seminary years, I developed an interest in the field of corrections, perhaps because I saw how close I lived to becoming a part of that system ... on the inside.
Toward the end of my seminary career, I decided pastors could not change the world as much as I thought it should be changed. I decided to pursue a career in either corrections or community organization. Corrections came first: I was hired as a Correctional Counselor at The Illinois Youth Center - Joliet, Illinois's maximum security juvenile facility. I loved the work I also picked up a Master of Corrections degree from Chicago State University.
I was promoted to supervise the counselors, nurses, and records offices at two minimum security juvenile institutions, and then to run a 63 bed co-ed work release center in Peoria.  About 3 years into that job, I went on a Methodist version of a Catholic Cursillio weekend. I got zapped by The Holy Spirit. I sought and received ordination in the ELCA at age 42.
I served congregations for 18 years. Then the founding pastor of CoDR announced his retirement. I applied and was called to serve as CoDR's pastor in early 2009. I'm still there!
Worship services Bible studies, and working with the congregation members at the two prisons keep me busy. We also have ten Reentry/Reintegration teams in Northwest and Central Iowa that require guidance and encouragement which I gladly offer. I love my "job", and I can't foresee being as fulfilled and happy in retirement as I am in this call.
I work with guys who recognize they need to change, recognize their efforts to change in the past have been unsuccessful, and recognize their need for God's help. Prison
congregations serve as God's hands and lips. Along with over 40 volunteers from the "outside", we work to help guys see and live a brighter future.
As with nearly all 23 established congregations that use the Prison Congregations of America (PCA) model, all of our support comes from congregations and individuals who believe in the value of our ministry. The members of CoDR give offerings, but all of that money is given away as benevolence to outside organizations and programs by the two Inside Church Councils. They are touching lives even before they are released.
I invite you to join us or any of the other prison congregations in this fulfilling ministry. If there are none in your area, contact Executive Director Mary Mortensen of PCA to get one started in your area.  I believe God wants you to. As Jesus said in Matthew 25:36 , "I was in prison and you visited me." You and the guys with whom you would share will be glad you did.

Category: Invitation

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