Mike Hale, a volunteer at the Augusta State Medical Prison, has discovered that being a prisoner can actually be beneficial for some men.
“When a man comes to jail and that is where he comes to know the Lord – that ain’t a bad thing,” Hale said. “I’ve had men tell me probably a thousand times, ‘God brought me to this place so that I could meet him.’ ”
That might not be an exaggeration, considering that Hale has been conducting volunteer Bible study classes at the medical prison twice a month for 23 years in addition to his full time job at Plant
Hale first felt called to volunteer after attending “Walk to Emmaus,” a four-day refresher course in Christianity designed to prepare men to return to their churches as disciples and leaders.
“When I did my first (Bible study class) here in 1991, it blew me away,” Hale said. “God did some amazing things here and it just captured my heart for this ministry.
“Overall this is probably the most satisfying thing that I do as a Christian because these guys are hungry, It would be a crying shame if God brought them here and there was nobody to work with them to facilitate that (finding Christianity).”
Hale, a member of West Acres Baptist Church, is also a member of Gideons International, an evangelical Christian organization, which gives him access to Bibles that he distributes to the prisoners.
When the prison warden asked chaplain Roy Norman whether he had a volunteer he would like to nominate for The Georgia Department of Corrections Volunteer of the Year, his choice was a simple one.
“Mike’s name immediately jumped out. Mike is head and shoulders above the rest,” said Norman.
Hale won the award and was recognized at the 10th annual Georgia Department of Corrections Awards ceremony on June 24 at the state offices in Forsyth.
“The department could not be successful without people who are willing to give their time to help us fulfill our mission,” Commissioner Brian Owens said in a Department of Corrections news release. “Mike’s work is a valuable asset to our agency.”
Chaplain Norman first met Hale when they attended a Kairos Prison Ministry together more than 20 years ago.
One of the elements of the Kairos program is that it specifically teaches participants to take the teachings of the Bible to non-Christians.
When a long-time volunteer at the prison died, Norman immediately asked Hale to fill the position and conduct the Bible study classes for the
One of the benefits of the classes is that some of the prisoners eventually become chaplain assistants who can minister to one another.
“It’s a peer-to-peer ministry. A lot of guys die here, so one of the most important things they do is minister to the terminal prisoners,” Hale said. “It’s very rewarding. When a person gets themselves straight with God a natural outgrowth is that you want everybody else to have it,