Ever wonder if your efforts as a volunteer really make a difference? Bruce Hood’s story should remove all doubt.
“Volunteering for Prison Fellowship brings love and encouragement to people sitting in dark jail and prison cells,” says Pastor Bruce Hood of Fresno, California. “People in prison have little hope; when you lead a life of crime and do nothing positive, it makes you believe you are nothing. But we tell them, You are somebody; you can change, you can go back to society and be productive. We show people in prison that there is something more to life.”
Bruce speaks as an expert, having been on both sides of the bars. Beginning as a juvenile doing drugs and alcohol, Bruce was arrested 49 times. During one of those arrests, he was shot twice by a security guard. Later he drew a long jail sentence. That’s when things changed.
“God worked in my life through Prison Fellowship,” he says. “My cycle of crime was broken through ministries like PF, who really helped me to give back to God what He has given me.”
Saved to Serve
Bruce turned his life over to Jesus in jail and worked as an assistant to Chaplain Glen Davis. He became a leader of Bible studies, inviting other inmates to attend services. After his release in 1990, he became the chaplain for the Fresno Rescue Mission, where he served for 10 years. He also teamed up with Prison Fellowship staff member Austin Morgan to start a Philemon Fellowship aftercare program in his own home, ministering to former prisoners.
“Austin taught me Scripture; how to serve God,” Bruce says of the man who served many years as the Prison Fellowship Area Director for Fresno, before his death in 1999. “He encouraged me to work with inmates, and to become a pastor. He was my personal teacher.”
When Bruce left the Rescue Mission, he founded Feed My Sheep, a nonprofit organization ministering to the needy in West Fresno, California. Today the organization feeds the hungry and provides housing, alcohol rehabilitation through its residency home, in-custody services, and job networking services to those on parole and probation. He has received many awards and recognition for his service.
Bruce stills partners with Prison Fellowship as a volunteer, not only visiting prisoners at the local jail and nearby California state prisons, but also giving his testimony at local churches and recruiting more volunteers for PF.
“People are excited to hear what Prison Fellowship is doing with Angel Tree, and their Bible studies,” he says. “The work is so satisfying because of how PF works: Prison Fellowship is one of the most powerful ministries for inmates in jails and prisons. Without PF and the work it does, many more men and women would be returning to prison.”
The Ministry Spreads
From that initial Philemon gathering of a few ex-prisoners in his home, Pastor Bruce Hood has built a church of more than 50. As he scans the congregation one evening, he spots many who turned their lives around because Bruce and other Prison Fellowship volunteers reached out to them in person. He notes:
- Preston, out of prison five years. Now the assistant chaplain at the Fresno Prison Rescue Mission. “My right hand man; looks after the job placement center, does administrative work for the organization, and manages the computer labs.”
- Tom, out of prison two years, treasurer of the church, joining the Feed My Sheep Ministry.
- Scott, out of prison five years, writes grants to get funding for Feed My Sheep community programs.
- Larry, out of prison two years. Training former prisoners in advertising and marketing skills to help them find jobs.
Like the Prison Fellowship volunteers who ministered faithfully to him, Bruce Hood now “has a heart for the men returning from prison and making it on the outside,” says PF California Field Director Janice Little. “And it shows in how he ministers to the least of these.”
So to all you volunteers who serve inside and outside the prisons, be assured that you ARE making a difference in someone’s life. And you may never know just how far your influence spreads!