The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Progress 2013

March 23, 2013

Finding Christ behind bars

Ministering to inmates not Philbrick’s first choice, higher power was calling

ENID, Okla. — Every Wednesday morning, most Saturdays and some Sundays, R.J. Philbrick sets aside his plumber’s tools, goes to his other office in Garfield County Detention Facility and shares the Lord with those who need it most.

Inmates at the jail can sign up for a time to meet with Philbrick, or he can ask to see the inmates. They typically meet for 45 minutes to an hour, but he has met with some of them as long as two or three hours, depending on the need.

During his meetings with inmates, he’s there for one thing and one thing only.

“I call them in, and we don’t talk about anything but the Lord,” Philbrick said.

He doesn’t allow inmates to discuss the legal case against them or complaints about their conditions at the jail. That’s not the reason he’s there.

“I’m there to see their hearts change,” Philbrick said. “We talk about the work of God. We try to see it change their hearts.”

Often enough, the work can be discouraging, Philbrick said.

Surrender to a call

While in jail, inmates truly want to change their ways, but when they get back out, they slip into their old ways.

But Philbrick sticks with it.

“I’ve been doing this about 11 years,” Philbrick said. “The Lord called me into jail ministry — laid it on my heart when I got right with God. I kept rejecting it, but you just can’t reject the Lord when he calls you.”

When he surrendered to the call and set about getting started, he quickly found it wasn’t going to be as easy as showing up at the jail and asking to come in. There were hurdles to get over first.

“I became part of the Oklahoma Jail and Prison Ministry,” Philbrick said.

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Progress 2013
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