In the beginning, there were only a few people who encouraged him. Some even told him there was no way anyone would pay attention to someone with such a sordid past. This almost led to the ministry never getting started, as Ron gave up the idea.
After falling back into sin and reentering prison, God got Ron’s attention once again, and this time he was assured of his calling. Ron began attending church at Rehoboth Mennonite Church, where he later founded the ministry.
In the beginning, Ron concentrated only on ministering in local jails, because the prisons would not allow him in until he had completed his parole. He joined Prison Fellowship, which trained him in all aspects of prison ministry, and took every training course they offered. Prison Fellowship was a major influence in Ron’s finally receiving acceptance as a volunteer in the prison he had been paroled from – Staunton Correctional Center (SCC). After several years of faithful service as a volunteer, Ron received approval to begin ministering and witnessing to the prison inmates at SCC. He was even asked to give the graduation speech for all the men graduating from either trade schools or the GED program.
After Rehoboth Jail & Prison Ministry was established, the VA Mennonite Church Conference stressed the importance of accountability. Ron pursued a license in his field and was then ordained for special ministries as a prison chaplain. The ministry established a volunteer Board of Directors in 1997, which began oversight of the ministry’s finances and activities. During this time, Ron also served for seven years as pastor for Rehoboth Mennonite Church.
After several years of working mostly from his own earnings from plumbing and odd jobs, support began to slowly trickle in – first from a few individuals, then a couple of churches – and the ministry began to grow. Eventually, the ministry also received support from the VA Mennonite Conference and established a new Board of Directors.
In 2002, after 21 years of operation, the ministry finally received enough donations to make budget for the entire year. Ron recalls, “I remember a time I was getting ready to go to Staunton and I had enough gas to get there, but not enough to get back. I prayed saying, ‘Lord, I am going to SCC and I expect you to get me back.’ About 3 hours before I was to leave a man came by and bought two pigs from me. I was able to fill both tanks in my truck and even get a bite to eat.”
God has brought this ministry a long way, and with the help of more churches, businesses and individuals, Rehoboth Jail & Prison Ministry can go even farther.
At present, there are over 250 inmates in and out of prison corresponding through Rehoboth Jail & Prison Ministry. And, the ministry provides a bi-monthly newsletter to anyone who wishes to receive it, thanks to the generous donation of a color copier. Ron also continues to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and gives seminars to groups who are interested in starting their own prison outreaches.
If you are interested in donating time or resources to Rehoboth Jail & Prison Ministry or are interested in having Brother Ron speak to your church or group, please contact him by e-mail or by calling (434) 831-2593.