Lovelei C. Sterling (Nana), my late 106-year-old maternal grandmother, was presented an award as being the eldest chaplain at that recognition banquet. Nana was 97 years old that evening. She served as a volunteer chaplain for two additional years.
So from 2000 to 2009, Nana and I, plus my mother, Dora L. Owens and father, Ronald F. Owens Sr., led Bible study at Juvenile Hall every-other-Tuesday.
When we read Bible passages and discussed Scripture we related to the young men. We reminded them the harm they inflicted on victims and the harm they did to themselves. We noted that living a life of crime could result in injury, the injury or death of others, their incarceration or death. We facilitated group questions and issue discussions. We communicated scriptural passages into understandable terms. We shared faith-based principles and lessons. We taught accountability and personal responsibility. We incorporated anger management and discussed the dangers of substance abuse. We stressed the importance of maintaining family and peer relationships. We noted, while exercising tact, confidentiality and respect, the physical, health and spiritual dangerous consequences of engaging in premarital sex. We stressed the importance of being abstinent until marriage. We taught them other life skills. We encouraged them to pursue higher education, so they could attend law school or qualify for medical school. We also acknowledged that college isn’t for everyone. We noted there were many good paying blue collar jobs they could pursue. Every Christmas season we’d buy several trunk loads of Subway Sandwiches. My two sisters and brother-in-law plus other church members shared about the birth of Christ and sung Christmas carols.
Most importantly, we shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ during those years. We encouraged them to confess their sins, repent of their sins, and accept Jesus as their LORD and Savior.
When we held Bible studies twice a month those nine years the four of us operated as an “evangelist,” as well as “pastor” and “teacher” (Ephesians 4:11).
When we held Bible studies during those years I fondly reflect on Nana’s ministry, because it was quite unique. One of her many precious and endearing legacies Nana left us was how she hugged people. Sacramento County Juvenile Justice officials instructed chaplains not to affectionately touch the young men, because some of them had been physically or sexually abused. But that didn’t pertain or matter to Nana. The LORD blessed Nana with long arms and she certainly used them. She had a hugging ministry. She hugged many young men and they wanted her to hug them. As my brother aptly noted during her celebration of life service on November 28, 2015. “If you were hugged by Nana you felt love,” he said. “And she loved everybody she hugged.”
While I was proud to receive this plaque and while I was more pleased to see Nana being presented her award, touching the lives of young men and leading them to the LORD really gratifies my heart all these years later.
Nana went to Heaven on November 20, 2015. My Mother joined her on June 13, 2021. But their ministerial legacy continues with me here on earth. I’d like to continue their giving legacy. I desire to share with inmates throughout the country the Gospel of my LORD and Savior Jesus Christ, by giving them my Bible character in the first-person storytelling paperback books.
To that extent I am requesting your help. If you volunteer at a local, state or federal prison ministry; or if you have prison ministry contacts; or if you have connections with prison libraries/book services; or if you know community resource managers —anyone to assist me donating my books to inmates, please call me at 916-905-5575, so we can discuss.
By the way, my next blog will be about my church ministering seven months later at a California correctional institution.
—Ronald F. Owens Jr.