The lighthouse is a tall permanent tower or other structure
with a powerful light that gives a continuous or intermittent
signal; a signal for guiding navigators of seafaring vessels
around dangerous rocky shores or to the entrance of a safe
harbor. Prior to electricity the light of the lighthouse was
illuminated by an oil lamp magnified by a Fresno Lens. Without fuel the fire
of the lamp would not burn. But without the lighthouse keeper the fuel would
never make it to the lamp. Every day the keeper would have to tend the lamp
by carrying enough fuel up the tower for the lamp to burn all through the night
as well as tend to trimming the wick and keeping the lens as clean as possible.
Every day no matter what the conditions would be, the keeper would climb 217
steps to tend to his duties so the light would shine. This all-important structure
has for years been the saving grace of many a sailor.
What of prisons and lighthouses, keepers and chaplains? There is a great
similarity among them all. One may not think of a prison as a lighthouse yet it
can so be compared. Some people get off the correct path of life or have no clue
which way to go at all. These folks need direction to a safe harbor or guidance
to avoid the rocky shoals of life (Deut. 11:26-28). Wrong choices have men and
women end up incarcerated to protect society from the criminals.
For the inmate, the lighthouse did not keep them from the rocky shore, but
in turn, became a beacon of hope to a safe harbor. Now the inmates (fellow
human beings) are now then protected from society to gain strength and proper
bearing of direction. Ultimately the direction is Jesus who is the Light of the
World (John 8:12). Prison brought a stop to the insanity and had them in a place
where they received the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
The Chaplain, lighthouse keeper if you would, is instrumental in making
the introduction between Jesus and the inmate. As a Chaplain at Chester County
Prison, I have had many conversations with inmates who have professed that
going to prison was what saved their lives. Praise God for the safe harbor and a
caring soul entrusted with keeping the fire in the lamp fueled and burning.
Each day the Chaplain has a responsibility to tend to the spiritual needs of
the prison population as varied the tasks may be. Fuel for the Spiritual Lamp is
supplied each day in the form of prayer, Bibles, relevant reading material and
Bible studies. All of this could be referred to as the oil for the lamps lovingly
supplied by the “keeper.”
Every day the Chaplain is called upon to minister to the needs of a “lost
sailor.” The counseling that occurs comes from the firm foundation of the Word
of God dispensed by one of Spirit and experience (i.e. I was a lost and floundering
inmate at one time who was touched by the love and care of Chaplain Keith
I haven’t climbed 217 steps each day to tend the lamp, but
I have driven 38 miles round trip. This amounts to 238,140
miles over 27 years. Each day over the same amount of
years, time invested has amounted to approximately 49,248
hours of tending the lamp of Chester County Prison. The
lamp has not gone out and continues to burn bright.
Ministering to the inmates has been and is a privilege
and a joy but just as a lighthouse keeper ages and may be
called to a new direction of occupation so, too, have I.
Come April of 2018 I will not be retiring, but re-firing, as
my mentor Keith would say. My wife, Theresa and I will be
moving to southern Delaware to experience the next chapter
of life together that the Lord has in store for us. Surely I
will be involved in ministry of the Lord’s calling in some
way, for when you work for God you do not retire until you
die. How can one ever stop working for and through God?
The past 27 years as a Chaplain at CCP has been a great
joy and blessing that has changed and developed my life
to this very moment. I am and will be eternally grateful to
the Board Members of Onesimus Ministries for their love,
prayers and support through all of my years of service to the
inmates of Chester County Prison. I am also thankful for the
support of all of the churches, individuals and organizations
who have contributed prayers and finances to Onesimus
Ministries for my support.
Please know that this is not the end of Onesimus
Ministries Chaplaincy at Chester County Prison. Lillian
Anthony is still in the trenches and Onesimus Ministries
will be supporting another chaplain to follow me in service
to the needs of the inmates. Support is needed not only to
continue but to increase so that more of the vision of the
ministry can be fulfilled.
April is not so far away and it is with great sorrow that
I will leave the service of Onesimus Ministries in Chester
County Prison. I also have a joyful heart knowing that the
ministry I have served will continue and become even more
effective in the years to come helping to “save” the lost
people adrift on the sea of life.