GALENA—Stone County Sheriff Richard Hill, a member of First Baptist Church of Kimberling City, is proud of the jail ministry work that goes on in this southwest Missouri town with an advertised population of 440 just a little west of Branson.
The men who make it happen are Bob Reed, an ordained Baptist minister who is part of an Assembly of God church in Ozark, and Harold Stanley, a member of First Baptist Church, Cape Fair, and an associational worker for Tri County Baptist Association in Nixa. Reed, 73, is the head chaplain and Stanley, 71, is the assistant chaplain.
“I’d invite any sheriff in the state to come down here and see what these two men are doing,” said Hill, 61, who has been sheriff since 1996.
All three men agree that what makes this ministry work so well in a jail that can house 63 and typically holds about 40 is that both Reed and Stanley are called to the ministry. Reed began in 2007 and Stanley came in 2009, and Hill said it is obvious that both men have a passion for the work that drives them to go the extra mile in their service to the inmates.
At the end of a Pathway interview in his office, Hill was asked if the chaplains could be photographed in areas where they do their ministry. The sheriff proceeded to grant full and open access to the inmates with the understanding that the chaplains would be responsible for whatever was said and done. Male and female inmates then came out and interacted with the chaplains in common areas.
The men appeared in orange jumpsuits and said they were glad to have three visitors. Some carried Bibles. Many said they had drawn closer to the Lord during their time in the jail due to the work of the chaplains. One remarked about the simple encouragement that having a visitor in street clothes represented in that it gave him hope that one day he, too, would be back in normal attire.
The chaplains then took Pathway over to the women’s common area of the jail where the inmates were asked what the chaplains had meant to them. Three women spoke freely with the following words: “inspiration;” “joy;” and “motivation.” Stanley then focused his attention on a woman with a bandaged left wrist. He was checking up on her after her recent suicide attempt.
“You get it together, knucklehead!” he said.
Inmates expressed their thankfulness for the chaplains’ desire to provide them with shampoo and conditioner. They also were grateful for the burrito breakfast that Stanley had provided the weekend of Jan. 20.
Reed and Stanley are opposites who work well as a team. Reed, who spent more than 20 years as a correctional chaplain in New York, is a bit of an outsider, but with decades of chaplaincy experience. Stanley is the local who calls himself “a redneck,” the one with deep community roots who often provides humor.
“Bob’s the chaplain’s chaplain,” Stanley said. “I’m his gofer.”
Reed expressed some of their ministry philosophy with a few key phrases.
As far as how he shares the gospel, he likes to say he is “one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.” He said he tries to be firm, fair, and consistent with every inmate.
Stanley agrees with Reed’s relational approach to ministry where personal caring is the gateway to eventual sharing from the Bible. Much of his ministry takes place in the community when freed inmates need a ride to the bus station or when folks need help accessing some of the more basic needs in life like food, shelter, medicine or clothing, along with spiritual guidance.
“We do more on the outside than people have any idea,” Stanley said. “We minister to these guys as families.”
Sheriff Hill produced a copy of a letter written by an inmate Dec. 19 expressing why the jail ministry is “very valuable.” In it the inmate wrote that he wanted the love, peace, joy, hope and faith that the chaplains have every day.
“They both have such an honest and true love for all of their brothers and sisters,” he wrote. “Their love for us is so deep, because it comes from the heart! They show and teach us to turn away from evil, and to do good. To look for peace, and go after it. They show us that we are filled with such glorious joy that can’t be put into words. And this is the result of our faith.”
Reed and Stanley work with six other ministers in the jail. Four are Baptist, one is Lutheran, and one is non-denominational. They also minister to the jail employees, some of whom are ministers in their own right. For example, Barbara West, Hill’s secretary, serves with her husband, Raymond, who cooks for the jail. Hill said he makes sure that the inmates are fed well, noting that they usually leave Galena a little heavier than when they came. It’s all part of the overall Stone County philosophy where each inmate is treated with dignity and respect.
Since the sheriff began his first term 16 years ago, he said his intention has been to let as much ministry come into the jail as possible. That has included such things as a baptism, a marriage, a gospel sing in the courtroom, a prayer time where Stanley was cured of colon cancer, and future times where the Lord’s Supper and a Friday Bible class are planned.
“People here are treated as valuable, even though they’ve done what they’ve done,” Reed said. “There can be a change. I think that treating them the way they are treated helps them to see there’s a way out.”
ALLEN PALMERI/associate editor