William H. Bergherm, Former Chaplain, 47th General Hospital, U. S. Army (at the time of publication)

This is a shortened version of a Ministry article published in October 1961 that we can still learn from today.

During the past three years I have served as chaplain of a Federal hospital, a Federal prison, and a State training school for delinquent youth. I have lived with men and boys who had made shipwreck of their lives, so they had been sent off where they would be out of sight of “decent” people, and keys were turned behind them.

After these years of observing such “awful” people, there have come upon me some very firm convictions. One is: The church should be contributing far more toward the spiritual rehabilitation of these lonely and broken outcasts, than we are doing at present.

We are all aware of the fact that the increase of lawlessness and violence has filled these correctional facilities of our country far beyond their capacities. All this constitutes a vast field of labor for the servants of Christ. The numbers of lost men and women are ever increasing. These people must be given spiritual help.

Ministering to broken men and women about us is a service that cannot be left to others to do. I have found that many of the boys for whom I labor would make earnest Christians if they were only given a chance.

While this spiritual guidance cannot always be completed during the time they are wards of an institution, it can be begun. When they see the help they might receive from God, many reach out for it.

Evidence of this desire for spiritual help is found in the large number of prisoners enrolled in the Voice of Prophecy correspondence courses throughout the country. But what are we doing to follow up the interests? Has any plan been worked out that assures personal visitation by workers or trained laymen who are orientated in this line of approach? Ministers in the area of these prisons are like ministers elsewhere—too busy and often too inadequately prepared to take on these added responsibilities.

Yet this call must be answered. Ministering to broken men and women about us is a service that cannot be left to others to do. I have found that many of the boys for whom I labor would make earnest Christians if they were only given a chance. But when a mother abandons a little boy, when a father kills a boy’s stepmother before his eyes, when a boy is shunted from home to home, what else can we expect?

This requires more than a compassionate heart and a willing hand. Men and women in the modern halls of correction and rehabilitation must be given more than the unskilled care. Dealing with the minds of men is the most delicate work in the world, and it must be undertaken with some skill.

It is up to us to develop the right kind of technique to open these doors. It will cost money, if for no other reason than the fact that the field is so large. But can we stand by as a church and do nothing for those who have fallen victims to sin?

The person who has broken the law and fallen into disgrace and shame is still a child for whom Christ died. Only Christ can save him. He is our brother as well as is the saint in the church for whom we labor. May God roll upon us then a sense of obligation toward these “disinherited souls” who are increasing in such numbers all about us.

Tonight he may be sitting in some lonely cell, wishing that he had the power to live a better life. Let us help him.


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William H. Bergherm, Former Chaplain, 47th General Hospital, U. S. Army (at the time of publication)

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