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In January of 2018, I began to sense God working a change in my life and in my heart. That can be a scary feeling! We can become so comfortable in our ministries that the thought of doing something different is terrifying. By March it was very clear that God was changing my direction in ministry.

With a leap of faith that resembled Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, I resigned as the lead pastor of Prairie Family Church in April. I had no job offers and since my wife, Debbie, has a great job, we had no desire to leave our home in Bismarck, North Dakota.

It wasn’t long before the Lord opened the doors for me to serve as the director for Bismarck’s Crisis Care Chaplaincy team. During my 29 years ministering as a pastor, I had served as a volunteer firefighter, EMT, and volunteer chaplain. I knew God was calling me to this job.

The Crisis Care Chaplaincy currently has 13 volunteers that serve our various departments. We provide spiritual and emotional care for our First Responders and Correctional Officers. We also assist with death notifications, unattended deaths, suicides, house fires, natural disasters, car accidents, and incarceration in the detention center, a state-of-the art, $69 million, 525-bed jail that provides life-changing opportunities for inmates through work release, re-entry counseling, spiritual care, and Alcoholics Anonymous. We are usually dealing with people who are experiencing some of the worst things in life, but at times we get to walk through some awesome experiences with people.

Chaplain Greg Carr (above, right) speaks at a memorial service for three members of a medical flight team who were killed in an air ambulance crash November 18, 2018, northwest of Mandan, North Dakota. Victims were pilot Todd Lasky, nurse Bonnie Cook, and paramedic Chris Iverson. At left, Bismarck Emergency Services personnel honor their fallen comrades.

Chaplain Greg Carr (above, right) speaks at a memorial service for three members of a medical flight team who were killed in an air ambulance crash November 18, 2018, northwest of Mandan, North Dakota. Victims were pilot Todd Lasky, nurse Bonnie Cook, and paramedic Chris Iverson. At left, Bismarck Emergency Services personnel honor their fallen comrades.

One of the goals of our recently retired sheriff, Pat Heinert, was to hold church services at the Burleigh Morton County Detention Center (BMDC). We met this goal Saturday, September 15, 2018, with the opening of a new facility that had space to hold worship services. Monthly services (one for women and one for men) have continued since. The inmates are very appreciative and inspired.

Recently one of our female inmates was serving time for driving under suspension. While she was in jail, she received a call that her three-month-old baby died. I was called immediately to come.

What kind of comfort can you bring to a young mother who made a mistake and was serving time and could not do anything to change the circumstances of the death of her three-month-old son? Honestly, there are no words. I simply provided a listening ear, comfort, and sympathy to a very broken heart. I prayed with the young mother, helped her make phone calls, and eventually with the help of her lawyer got her out of jail sooner rather than later.

This fall I had the opportunity to lead to Christ an inmate who will soon be baptized. During a recent Bible study, with two other inmates looking on as witnesses, I baptized another inmate who had given his heart to Christ. The most moving part of the ceremony was when the other two inmates hugged their new brother in Christ!

One inmate whom I will call Neil* helped me see the importance of what I am doing at BMDC. Neil is a six-foot, six-inch, 275-pound intimidating looking man covered in gang tattoos, who is incarcerated on charges of terrorizing. My first meeting with him had me terrified. He came in handcuffed and stayed handcuffed. He was suffering from bipolar disorder, off his medicine, and coming down from a bad meth trip. He was angry about the racism he has encountered in various parts of our country and did not trust me very much when I came in. By the time our first meeting was over, I saw a different man. The Holy Spirit had broken through and Neil was crying! He was so hungry for a relationship with God and didn’t even know it.

Neil has now been in our maximum security lockdown for four months, and I have been visiting with him weekly. This fearsome man recently wrote me a poem.

When I came here I was lost…
Every other night I’d cry.
The officers didn’t trust me,
they saw evil in my eyes.
It didn’t help that I had mental problems
or was high.
To be honest, before I met you,
I wanted to die.

I couldn’t find a reason to smile,
as if something was missing in me.
It didn’t matter how much I prayed,
I felt like God wouldn’t listen to me.
Every day I felt alone with no one to talk to;
my girlfriend ain’t here.
I’m broke and far from home.
Only God knows how it felt deep inside
the way they made me feel.
They called me names behind my back,
not one friendship was real.
I gave up trying, every day and every night.
Why pray if I am not smart with religion?
Too many ways, too many people praying different. Would God even listen?

I’m glad I met you, you came right on time. I swear I was waiting to quit,
then you told me, “It’s not about religion,
focus on the relationship.”
I might have said, “This medication is great!
I’m happy! It worked!” But who am I kiddin’?
You heard me. Thanks to you I have a hat and coat. Just a few things to keep me warm.

The next time I feel real down in life,
I’ll remember you in the storm.
You’re the only person I ever met in Dakota
to shake my hand.
Words can’t express how that made me feel
and how thankful I really am.
I will always remember you in all the good I do,
And if there’s a person out here who really needs help,
I pray that they meet you!

Thank you!

Some of the men and women I meet with are playing the system, but every now and then I get one like Neil and realize that I’m right where God wants me to be. Ministering to inmates is only part of my job. I also get to spend time with some of the best law enforcement officers, correctional officers, firefighters, and emergency medical services workers on the earth.

Carl* is an officer who will call me anytime he needs to talk. Recently after a very tough call in which his gun was pointed at a suspect, I met with Carl for a couple of hours just hearing his heart and letting him debrief. Fortunately, he did not have
to fire his weapon and the situation ended with no one getting harmed.

I thank God for every opportunity I have had to help people when they are experiencing the worst life can give them. I am thankful that through times of crisis I can point people to Christ. When I graduated from Eugene Bible College, former Open Bible President Jeff Farmer, who was then president of EBC, reminded me that “the highest call in all the universal domain of God is to serve in lowliness, humility, and meekness – not to be served.”

*Not his real name.

About the Author

MSG Carr w prisoner 0319Greg Carr (left) is a 1998 graduate of Eugene Bible College. He and his wife, Debbie, live in Bismarck, North Dakota, where Greg is a staff chaplain for the Crisis Care Chaplaincy.

About The Author

Open Bible's Publication Since 1920

Since 1920, Message of the Open Bible has been a medium to celebrate all the wonderful things God is doing through His people in Open Bible Churches – from personal testimonies, to news-related stories, to inspirational articles by quality authors.