Jail Chaplain Witnesses Power of Transformation

Post a Comment » Written on March 25th, 2009     
Filed under: News
WHEATON, IL (March 25, 2009)  – The new executive director of JUST of DuPage, Annie Rose, was amazed by what she heard and saw on her first day at work recently.

The nonprofit organization – Justice-Understanding-Service-Training – ministers to the roughly 800 inmates at the DuPage County Jail. Rose sat in on a Bible study led by Henoch Fuentes, a pastor of the Evangelical Covenant Church, who is a full-time chaplain with the organization.

The class was studying Mark 2:1-12, which tells how Jesus healed a paralytic let down through a ceiling by his friends. Fuentes asked two of the men to draw on a whiteboard what the scene might have looked like.

“The change is real.”

“As the rest of the group continued their discussion, these two men collaborated on what turned out to be a very good drawing,” Rose recalls. At the end of the class, three men gave their lives to Christ, and Fuentes asked other inmates to pray alongside the new converts.

As much as the men may have been influenced by the words spoken, the two men working together at the front of the room proved to be a powerful testimony as well. They once had been rival gang members.

“Early on, they struggled with one another in the Bible study group, but over time, the unity they shared in the body of Christ overcame the ugly and destructive gang rivalry,” Rose says.

“These two hated each other,” Fuentes recalls, laughing.

“Doesn’t God in Christ bring together enemies so that we can together be a dwelling of the Holy Spirit?” Rose asks. “What a gift it is for me to see God at work in the same way in the jail. And what a gift it is for all of us to see the contribution of a Covenant pastor who is allowing the Lord to use him to disciple inmates.”

Fuentes, who is the interim youth pastor at Elgin Covenant Church, says he appreciates the opportunity he has to share the gospel every day. “One of the guys was telling me just a half hour ago that when he gets out, that ‘I want to come with you and deliver food to the poor.’ People are really being transformed.”

He cites the example of an inmate who recently received a life sentence for killing three members of a Mexican drug cartel outside a local restaurant in 2004. Fuentes says he had seen a remarkable change in the man, who has committed his life to Christ and ministered to other inmates. After being sentenced, the inmate told Henoch he looked forward to serving God in the state prison to which he was eventually transported.

“This change is real,” Fuentes says.

In addition to the Bible study, Fuentes teaches eight-week classes on anger management and job readiness. He explains to them the physical and gradual emotional changes that lead to angry outbursts. He also counsels them on how to deal with obstacles to success – which are many – once they are released from jail.

Fuentes has long been regarded in Elgin for his ministry. In 2002, The Martin Luther King Jr. Committee and the City of Elgin awarded Fuentes the Humanitarian Award for civil rights advocacy.

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