Bob Thompson with Gay Brunt Miller
In the fall of 1998, Ann Angelichio, a 16-year Liberty Ministries prison volunteer, called the church where I served as an elder. She was seeking volunteers to preach in a new Thursday night chapel service at Montgomery County Correctional Facility (MCCF). Our pastor asked the elders if any of us would be interested in doing this ministry. When I heard the request, I remember thinking, “No way would I want to go into prison to preach.” I only wanted to teach in our “safe” Sunday school.
But I could not get the idea out of my mind. Every time I thought about it, I would dismiss the idea.
A week later, I decided to call Ann to “at least find out more” about prison ministry. Ann’s enthusiasm about prison ministry was contagious. By the end of our conversation I told her I would go to the volunteer orientation class to “at least find out more about it.”
The orientation session was educational and answered more questions than I could have ever imagined. The expectations were high, the commitment level was serious. The fear factor was daunting.
Part of the class was to complete a background check form. A few weeks later I received a call from Ann. “Bob, you were approved to go into Montgomery County Correctional Facility as a volunteer—what Thursday night could you start?” I remember a very long pause after her question. She suggested that I go in with another volunteer first. The next day I got a call from an experienced volunteer telling me when to meet him at the prison.
My heart raced as we were escorted through the long hallways and seven iron doors to reach the chapel deep inside the prison. None of the inmates were there yet. I was relieved. As groups of inmates were released from their cells, the room was soon full. The choir assembled at the front of the chapel and started the service with singing and rejoicing. I was amazed that the a cappella choir sounded so good. Even though I recognized none of the tunes, some of the lyrics were familiar. My heart calmed by the time Larry finished preaching. A guard announced it was time to wrap up. Larry gave a benediction, and we were escorted back to the prison lobby.
Outside the prison Larry asked what I thought about the service and prison ministry. I could only say that it was “great” and “I wanted to do it.” There was no more “at least” thinking. The next week I started preaching at 8 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month and have been involved in increasing ways ever since.
After several years I had the opportunity to teach a Bible study to the residents of Liberty House. Teaching men who were transitioning from a life of incarceration to one of freedom in Christ and freedom in the world convinced me of the importance of a ministry like Liberty. Men who have been in prison need a safe place to live and time to make changes in the way they want to live after becoming followers of Jesus Christ. Liberty Ministries provides that environment.
This realization led me to join the board of directors and eventually become board chair. My 37 years of professional experience in the business world has been indispensable in leading the ministry in new directions.
In the fall of 2010 I became the Executive Director. It is an honor, privilege and challenge to be in this a position. Many changes are taking place in the ministry that will help us be more responsive to the needs and expectations of our community. By implementing the best practices available in all areas of our ministry, we are seeking to be the finest faith based residential program for ex-offenders in Pennsylvania.
I am convinced that serving God wherever He calls us, and whatever He calls us to do, is one of the greatest blessings a Christ-follower can experience.