Saturday, September 01, 2007


The chaplain at the prison where I teach "A New Man" made a passing comment about getting behind in some work because of the lack of office assistance. So I went in a few mornings in August to help him out a bit.

My motives were not entirely pure. Both prisoner programs I work with (one with a parachurch organization, the other a program that I developed last spring), finished in July, and won't start up again until a little later this month. So I had some extra time and figured that I could get some insight into the inner workings of the prison system by doing a bit of work in the chaplain's office.

It was win-win for me -- I get a slightly better understanding of the overall prison context in which I volunteer, and I give a little bit of help to an overworked prison chaplain (a good guy who's affiliated with the AOG). That, plus I enjoyed visiting with the inmate-clerk while we worked.

So anyway, I'm in the office one morning doing something. The chaplain comes over and we're chatting. In the course of our conversation, the chaplain blurts out that he's "humbled" that I'm willing to come in to help him in his office. I bit my tongue and resisted the temptation to tell him to get a grip.

I mean, this man earns a salary not much over the poverty level while pouring himself out day after day for one of the toughest congregations that any pastor can minister to. To be sure, the inmates aren't all tough in the sense of all being hardened characters, although there are enough of those types around. What makes it tough is that even the Christians among the inmates typically come from backgrounds in which they have been victimized as well as the victimizers (and these often get intertwined). There's just a lot of baggage for any pastor to deal with.

My coming in to move around a few paperclips ain't nothing compared to that. Nothing at all. So I told him that I thought he had one of the toughest jobs conceivable, and my goal was to give him a little help with routine, time-consuming tasks so that he might have more time for the more important parts of his job. (Although, frankly, I'd be happy just to help make his work day a little less crazy.)

It struck me as ridiculous, though. I'm not fit to tie this guy's shoes, and he's telling me that he's humbled that I'm willing to spare a few paltry hours to help in his office. Lord, let me learn.


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