FEBRUARY 2020 NEWSLETTER
The weekend of July 28, 1991 we went to Putnamville Correctional (then called The Indiana State Farm) for a Gospel Echoes sponsored “Daily Light Seminar – Self Acceptance from a Biblical Perspective.” During the invitation on Sunday morning an inmate asked Doug Gingerich to go with him to the altar. Doug and the inmate walked to the old fashioned altar in this huge prison chapel that was built before Christian Chapels were considered discriminatory in government facilities.
“He asked me to pray for God to help him quit smoking. I was so convincted, I don’t remember praying for him, but I remember praying that God would help me quit smoking,” Doug said.
Doug was in my Sunday School class and I didn’t know he had a hidden habit. He later told me that he thought, “Now that I quit smoking, everything is fixed. I’m clean with God…. Later I realized that now God could show me all the other garbage in my life!”
Doug was a changed man. Within two years he sold his thriving construction business, moved to Florida to be a volunteer prison chaplain with a newly formed minsitry: GEMS (Gospel Express Ministries South), and with the money from selling his business and his house, he went to college classes after working in the prison all day. He earned his B.A. and became state chaplain (no longer volunteer). His first salary was $21,000 @ year. With four teenagers and a stay-at-home wife!
For the next 15 years he served as chaplain at five northern prisons: Liberty Correctional, Appalachee Corr., Washington Corr., Wakulla Corr. and Gulf Correctional (some of these prisons twice) before being promoted in 2001 to the Central Office in Tallahassee where he was appointed head chaplain over all the faith based prison dorms in the Florida System.
Fast forward to Jan. 25, 2020: I was on my way from Sarasota to Montgomery, Alabama to be with We Care Prison Ministries Program for the 30th year in a row (minus a year or two). I called Doug to tell him I’m coming through his town, can I park my RV in his yard overnight? “Sure! In fact, I’m having a retirement party on Saturday. Can you stay an extra day and be here?”
Of course I can! Can you believe that?! I’ll be late for We Care, but I was at the very first prison service where Doug Gingerich fully dedicated his life to the Lord and later to prison ministry, and now I have the honor of being at the celebration of his last prison service. Well, his last “paid” prison service. I know Doug well enough that even with the travel and retirement plans, he will never stop ministering in prisons and in his local church. Oh! I forgot to mention: Doug is also the pastor of the church they attend (Berean Christian Fellowship)!
I dedicate this letter to my friend and fellow soldier in the trenches, Chaplain Doug Gingerich. Almost 30 years of faithful service and sacrifice. Doug is the kind of man who would have been one of my financial supporters if he had stayed in business. Instead of giving tithes and gifts to many ministries, he gave his whole life to God and to prison ministry. Congratulations, Doug! You and I both know that “retirement” just means a change in direction.
Blessings in this new phase of life.