A jail chaplain’s memoir of a life spent ministering to the prison populations of northwestern Washington.
Hoke relates his spirited tenure as prison pastor to incarcerated felons through the stories of those he has helped most. A restless, downtrodden youth growing up in Northern California, the author found the vocational “faith community” he’d been seeking after volunteering to co-minister to prisoners in a Skagit Valley, Washington, detention facility. Supporting himself with farm work, Hoke discovered his real passion behind the prison walls, where violent killers and desperate gangsters stared him down. Many of them actively participated in his Bible study class, and they eventually came to dub him their “pastor,” though he would remain unordained. Embracing the ecclesiastical journey through the bowels of a men’s penitentiary as his true calling, Hoke shares frank commentary and a collection of sobering anecdotes of the often mentally taxing time “learning to pray in a cathedral of tattoos and temporary release orders.” Whether selflessly fostering relationships between a solitary confinement inmate and his daughters, bonding with a former East LA Chicano gang member, counseling a schizophrenic, homicidal young man, or fly-fishing in Guatemala with ex–gang members–turned–volunteer chaplains, Hoke’s generous, unflagging spirit for these often hopeless inmates is an inspiring demonstration of the author’s dedication to his ecclesiastical calling. Some of the author’s behaviors, however, seem questionable, as when he illegally forged TSA initials on two immigrants’ boarding passes to get them on a flight. His later work with Christian ministry Tierra Nueva has served as a continuation of his mission to establish a long-lasting connection between the devotional and the criminally incarcerated.
A liberating, transformative chronicle of how spirituality can foster inspiration and hope while emboldening the downtrodden through their darkest days.