John Peterson, MDiv, Class of 2006.
After graduation I realized that there weren’t enough days in the week to accept every opportunity that God gave me for ministry, so I did the only logical thing on my heart. I quit my “day job!”
I am working at McNeil Island Correctional Center as a volunteer chaplain. The prison allows me to visit the “Segregation Unit,” (i.e. “The Hole”) and minister to the men held in isolation. They challenge and bless me in ways I never would have imagined.
I also volunteer on the other side of the island at the Special Commitment Center where Washington houses its sex offenders who are deemed too dangerous to release into society.
In both places I am learning the importance of having a “MOWA,” that is—a Ministry Of Walking Around. Sometimes all that is needed from me is to be present and let the Holy Spirit flow through me into the dark places in men’s hearts.
During the past three years I have expanded my desire to work with offenders transitioning from prison to society. I administrate a prison-based curriculum my wife and I developed called “Preparing For Release.” This course prepares incarcerated offenders and their families for their release home. “But what about inmates who have no family support?” I heard over and over. This year I’m rolling out a new 12-week class called “Staying Free” that teaches offenders basic social and life skills. This includes tasks most of us take for granted, such as how to obtain and maintain a checkbook and how to grocery shop without becoming overwhelmed by all the choices in the cereal aisle.
I continue to pastor a small church in rural Thurston County and also represent the volunteer fire department as their chaplain. Most of the calls have tested my faith walk: infant deaths, the deaths of several personal friends, and traumatic accidents where families are distraught and often without either faith or hope.
The past three years have also been blessed with a sprinkling of baby dedications, weddings and “home goings” ever reminding me of God’s presence in every stage of our lives.
Do I miss my full-time paying day job? Not one bit! Fuller prepared me to prioritize God’s work and to trust that everything else will be taken care of.
I am blessed.