On November 30, 2021, over 300 friends, volunteers, and supporters of Forsyth Jail & Prison Ministries gathered at the Benton Convention Center for our fundraising breakfast. While this has become an annual event, this year’s breakfast was anything but a normal, ordinary event. For starters, it was the first time that our supporting community has been able to gather in person since the start of the global pandemic.
For over a year and a half, we have been unable to engage with volunteers in our facilities. There have been no in-person volunteer-led Bible studies or worship services at the jail or the prison since March 2020. Thankfully, the chaplains have continued to minister to the incarcerated men and women throughout the pandemic, but it was refreshing to see so many familiar faces at the breakfast. They were a sight for sore eyes.
As great as it was to see all the familiar faces, there was one face in particular that many of our friends came to see – the face of our now-retired Senior Chaplain – Rodney Stilwell. Rodney is the reason that this year’s breakfast was particularly special. It marked 36 years to the day since he was hired to serve as Senior Chaplain on November 30, 1985!
For nearly 4 decades, Rodney has been the face of the ministry as well as modeling being the hands and feet of Jesus sharing Christ’s love and forgiveness with those whom many in society deem as “the least of these.” We gathered to celebrate Rodney’s years of faithful service and listen as he shared heartwarming stories cultivated throughout his time as Senior Chaplain of FJPM.
Now, as our ministry begins a new era under the leadership of our Executive Director, Mark Hogsed, we look forward to continuing the legacy of love and grace that Rodney has helped create. Our ministry is poised for tremendous growth and to make an even greater impact in the lives of those who are incarcerated and our larger community. Truly, we believe that the best is yet to come!
As the new Senior Chaplain, I look forward to working with our amazing staff, volunteers, and supporters as we continue to follow Christ’s mandate to visit those are in prison and do the most for “the least.”
Tejado Hanchell, Senior Chaplain