Welcome, Friends of Onesimus. Welcome to the Lenten season—a time of walking with Jesus to the cross. In a few weeks we will celebrate Resurrection Sunday when the living Christ brings life out of death, hope out of despair, joy out sadness, forgiveness out of condemnation. Resurrection makes possible new life changes.
Thank God for opportunities to experience life changes. The Apostle Paul’s letter to his friend Philemon is a wonderful picture into the heart of God which makes people who often regard themselves as “useless” to become “useful” in God’s kingdom. The Apostle Paul makes a play on the name of the runaway servant named Onesimus. Read Philemon v.10,11. Paul says to his friend, “I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in prison. Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful to both you and me.” Read v. 12-16. These are really encouraging verses—the possibility to significant life changes.
Life changes have far reaching implications—life changes which transformed a young man from a life dominated with out-of-control anger issues into a very useful man for his family and our community. It has been 40 years since Doug Burnette asked to “go back to prison” to help others with the same help he received when he had a life change while at Chester County Prison. In November 1978, Onesimus Ministries received permission to provide chaplaincy services at CCP. 40 years later the ministry continues. Peter Roomet and Lil Anthony retired in 2018 and the Lord graciously provided Heinrich Botes and Rhonda Soland to pick up the responsibility.
We have needed to share with chaplain Heinrich the recent death of his father in South Africa. It was such a blessing for friends of Heinrich to contribute to needed funds for him to make the trip to be with his father and mother and sister days before his father’s death.
The Bible says Joseph “found favor” with Pharaoh while in prison in the Exodus story. Trust is an important commodity to have in the working relationship between the prison staff and Onesimus board. We are grateful for the faithfulness of previous chaplains who have earned that trust—Doug Burnette, Keith Brooks, Peter Roomet, Lil Anthony and now Heinrich Botes and Rhonda Soland. It is a privilege for Onesimus Ministries to help provide a positive spiritual atmosphere.
You are encouraged to attend our annual banquet at Mt. Vernon Christian Church on April 5. Our speaker will be Rhonda Soland, the chaplain for the female population. I asked for a paragraph of biographical information from Rhonda, so I will permit her to introduce herself:
I’m Rhonda Soland, the new chaplain for females at Chester County Prison. I have been serving at the prison for four years as a volunteer, and now, as of the beginning of the year, have assumed the position of chaplain. I reside in West Chester with my husband of 23 years and our three children. Our oldest son is in college, our middle son will be graduating from high school this spring, and our daughter is in 10th grade.
We are members of Trinity Assembly of God Church, also in West Chester. I grew up in church, but wandered away from God for many years. It has now been 12 years since I came back to the Lord and He has been so gracious to give me such a desire to know Him and grow in my relationship with Him. He has now brought me to a position where I can serve Him by serving the women of CCP. I am very much looking forward to continuing to minister to the women there and am excited to see how God will work out His purposes. I am so grateful for this opportunity.