By SHERRY DIGMON
That title seems contradictory, doesn’t it? But it isn’t. There are men and women in our society, in Alabama, in Atmore, who may have no hope until someone brings it to them inside prison walls.
We Care Program does that – not only hope for this life but hope and assurance for the next life.
Friday evening, April 12, almost 200 people gathered at the prison ministry banquet to celebrate the work of We Care and to help support the program that goes where most people would not go.
In his remarks, President Don Metzler said the reason We Care brings the Word to inmates is simple – “The reason is the hope we have in Christ Jesus.”
He read Titus 2:11-14: For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (ESV)
“I challenge you to think about hope and how that hope has affected your life,” Metzler concluded.
Chaplain Mark Stoltzfus talked about doing ministry inside prison.
“It’s not always the easiest place to be,” he said. “It’s sometimes negative from the time you step in until the time you leave. But I always leave feeling so blessed. There are a lot of men of God in there. They made mistakes. We all make mistakes …
“It’s awesome to see guys transformed … What we’re doing is helping some of these guys.”
Charles Hodges was listed on the printed program as Friend of We Care Program. The former inmate introduced himself and gave his prison number.
“I was not always that number,” he said.
Perhaps the path of Hodges’ life was set when he was 14 and his mother was dying of cancer. Her last words to him were, “You are evil.”
His mother was gone and his father was not there for him, so he set his own course.
Hodges joined a motorcycle gang in Birmingham. They taught him how to deal drugs, rob, steal, etc. He was arrested and spent two years in Draper. He escaped then was sent to Holman. This was in the 1970s.
“That’s where I learned how to kill,” Hodges said. “I killed my first man at Holman.”
The next years were a series of incarcerations, escapes, crime, recaptures.
After robbing drug dealers in Birmingham (he didn’t think anybody would care if he robbed dealers but it was still a crime), he found himself back at Fountain in 1981. Back to prison, then out again.
Hodges was in a strip joint in Birmingham when he overdosed on cocaine and had alcohol poisoning. He woke up in a hospital. When he was taken in, he had a gun – and he was on parole. Back to prison for six years, then out again.
“I was in worse shape. I was mad and hateful,” Hodges said. “One night I was at a bar and I went out to get on my bike. There was a hobo there, in my way. So, I killed him.”
His next incarceration was at West Jefferson Correctional Facility (later Donaldson Correctional Facility). There was a guy there who kept telling him, “Let me tell you about Jesus.” The guy was a We Care chaplain.
After 11 years, Hodges was transferred to an Atmore facility again. His path crossed the paths of two more chaplains – David S. Landis and David R. Landis – who ministered to him.
The seed had been planted.
“I fell down one day and asked Jesus into my life” Hodges said.
While still in prison, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and bone cancer and was told he had a year and a half to live. Later he had a heart attack and pneumonia He said he knows he’s on borrowed time.
“I still get to my knees and thank God every day for the breath I take,” Hodges said. “God was with me even in my darkest hours. I don’t know what God has planned for me, but I’m all right with it.”
About We Care Program
The Vision of the prison ministry is “To see the redemptive power of Jesus Christ become evident in the lives of inmates as they grow and make disciples in prison and beyond.”
The Mission is “To fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus Christ through chaplaincy in the correctional setting.”
The program’s Core Values are Biblical Foundation / Daily Discipleship / Caring Ministry.