Tuesday, June 07, 2011

An Interview with Brian Wrezesinski

Bio-Notes . . . Brian Wrzesinski: Brian has known Jesus as his Savior from the age of eight, growing up in Onalaska, and finishing high school there in 1977. He attended the Presbyterian church and was active in a youth group comprised of kids from four churches in the town, who came together as one group. Brian attended the Inland Empire School of the Bible in Spokane, considered a "junior college for Whitworth" with thoughts of being a Christian school teacher, but he was eighteen, and just married to Monica. They moved there together, and stayed for ten months. It snowed hard for months, and when Monica ran over their snowman in March, that was enough! They moved home.

Brian enjoys baseball and reading in his spare time, and especially likes reading "cops and robbers" novels, and Max Lucado. He also enjoys teaching Sunday school to little kids every Spring, as his "anti-work" experience.

He feels he is still working on establishing spiritual disciplines, and is most grateful for family. He and his sister and three brothers all still live an hour from their parents’ home, and Monica and her two sisters and brother all live one and one-half hours from her parents. At Christmastime, there are 35-50 family members gathered at his mother’s house.

The House: Thank you for taking time to talk about the prison ministry that is a part of what you do as an Administrative Sergeant in our local law enforcement. You told us that your work includes arranging transportation, overseeing volunteers coming to offer support to inmates, and making sure inmates and staff have the supplies they need.

Can you tell us more about how you became involved in the prison ministry?

Brian: This ministry was definitely a calling on my life. It wasn’t hard to recognize it for what it was, as I grew up with a social worker and nurse for parents. Dad would bring his clients home with him, give them a place to stay until they were able to go out on their own, so jail and these people weren’t new to me.

I came to visit my dad at his office as a probation officer, and a job was posted just outside his office door. I had only visited him at his office three times, but when I saw the posting, I applied for the job immediately and was hired to work in our local prison system.

Ten years ago the captain who was head of the program was retiring, and I was asked if I would be interested in taking his position, and I said yes.

The House: How have you recruited volunteers for the program, which you told me has grown to over 100 volunteers?

Brian: Thirteen years ago Monica and I were without a church home, and visited many churches in the area, and met a lot of Christian people in the process. When I began looking for volunteers, many of them I found because of getting to know them at the churches we visited until we were led to join East Hills Alliance.

The House: Can you tell us about the different ministries actively reaching out to inmates currently?

Brian: On Saturday there is an NA group, as well as Seventh Day Adventist church services. On Sunday, there are five different churches that share the responsibility for church services, including Shekinah, St Rose, the Gideons and New Life. There is also a Bible study on Tuesday, AA on Thursday and Attic Ministries comes one Sunday morning a month.

The House: What is Attic Ministries? Do they serve former addicts?

Brian: No. It is a "street ministry" and they minister to lots of people on the streets, not just addicts. It is ministry to the homeless, whatever their history.

The House: How long have you been involved in this ministry?

Brian: Thirty-one years. I see family members being booked in their third generation of burglars, but I also see churches stepping up and ministering to these people within their churches.

We have training for volunteers every quarter. Ten of our volunteers have been doing it for twenty years. We need new volunteers, as these faithful ones are reaching the place where they will retire from the service they are doing.

We have a volunteer potluck every November, which is a "Volunteer Reunion" of all the volunteers who have served.

We also have "Chaplain Call" and inmates can ask to talk with a chaplain. There are about 7 "regular" local pastors who come to talk and listen. There are a couple of them who have been coming for ten years.

There are pastors who have members in jail, and can visit their congregants twice a month.

Some volunteers have been inmates who have been out of jail long enough to be able to come back as volunteers, after they have proven to staff that they have genuinely changed their lives and want to help others. They make great volunteers, because they have "been there".

Some of these people don’t have ANYBODY to care. The interest and compassion the volunteers show makes a difference in the inmates’ lives. Showing them respect and responding to them as another human being is something they are hungry for.

The key to volunteering in prison ministry is KNOWING you will make a difference in these people’s lives.

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