August 2020 Newsletter

By September 10, 2020 No Comments

“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Hebrews 13:3

I thought that I would open this newsletter with a few words of introduction. Before being hired as the new chaplain at Orange Correctional Center, I served for five years as chaplain at Randolph Correctional Center in Asheboro. I am a graduate of Southern Wesleyan University and Asbury Theological Seminary. I have served as a youth pastor, an outreach minister, and for four years as pastor of a small rural church in Seagrove, NC. Although I have lived in Randolph County for the past thirteen years, I grew up in Orange County. After attending Chapel Hill High School, I took a job as a dishwasher at Aqueduct Christian Conference Center, which is where I responded to an inner impulse to pursue a life in ministry.

It is the deepest desire of my heart to become more like Jesus in my daily life…to yield to his indwelling presence in the here and now in the hopes that the Kingdom of God might be made manifest in my own life, and in the wider world around me. I am drawn to prison ministry because I believe in full redemption, because the heart of Jesus is often easiest to see in those that society has cast out, and because I like to hear good stories. I am happily married to Laura, who is an ESL teacher. We have two awesome kids. Anna Grace is thirteen, and Ellis is ten.

How are the men doing?
Over the past month or so, I have heard from many of you, as you have expressed to me your concern for the men at OCC. One of the common questions that I have gotten is, “how are the men doing?” I don’t pretend to be able to answer that question on behalf of each resident. Of course, some are struggling more than others with the increase in restrictions. Yet in general, I must say that I have been truly impressed with how these men have been willing and able to adapt. Unfortunately, many have become accustomed to inconvenience, and have learned by hard experience that change is the only constant. The men certainly miss their families, as well as all of you folks who have served as volunteers. We are able to hold Bible study one dorm at a time, and we have begun showing religious movies by the same method. Hopefully, these humble offerings have been of some comfort to the residents in what have been trying times for all of us.

What can we do?
Many of you have also asked how you can help the men during this unprecedented season. Within the framework of the current restrictions, there is really no way to facilitate any meaningful interaction between residents and the broader community. You can certainly pray. We may need that more than anything else. I will continue to relay your hopes and concerns to the men, which are a means of real encouragement to them. We may be in this holding period for some time to come. I will do my best to communicate any changes through the website
Note: We will begin taking orders for our pecan fundraiser beginning September 1st on our website. Due to the COVID19 pandemic, we will not be able to provide Brunswick stew this year. If you’re not into pecans, please consider setting up a recurring monthly donation via the website.

Words from inside
“Henri Nouwen wrote: ‘When we honestly ask ourselves which people in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen instead to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing, and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.’
I have found such friends in AOPM, Yokefellows, and the volunteers at OCC, friends who have taught me that I could be something more than wounded and tragic…that charity is more than giving away what you get rid of, and sacrifice always costs more than you’d mind paying. Most importantly, I now know hope in transformation and restoration isn’t too much to reach for…, or hold on to. Love and compassion are just words…until demonstrated. Then they become proof of Gods’ existence. Thank you.” -John H.

A prayer for healing
May those whose lives are gripped in the palm of suffering open even now to the Wonder of Life. May they let go of hurt and meet the True Self beyond pain, the Uncarved Block that is our joyous Unity with Holiness. May they discover through pain and torment the strength to live with grace and humor. May they discover through doubt and anguish the strength to live with dignity and holiness. May they discover through suffering and fear the strength to move toward healing.
-Rabbi Rami M. Shapiro