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Facilitating Course Corrections

Prison chaplain Jerrod Ramirez helps prison inmates refocus their lives.

God broke through to Rufino V. Munoz in 2012 after yet another trip to prison for the Midland, Texas, native. Munoz says the Holy Spirit showed that his involvement with gangs and drug trafficking represented a dead end.

Falling to his knees, Munoz pleaded, “Lord, help me. I have no self-control. Forgive me of my sins and be Lord of my life.”

God answered then and two years later, after Rufino transferred to the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth. A hospital and prison, the facility has nearly 1,400 inmates.

Munoz, now 49, already had developed a desire to enroll in Global University after a cellmate in Louisiana completed courses of the Assemblies of God distance learning institution. He asked chaplain Jerrod G. Ramirez, 48, who could help him.

“I’m an ordained minister,” replied Ramirez, who earned his Master of Divinity at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in 2005.

“He really helped me,” Munoz says of the chaplain’s mentoring, which included letting Munoz occasionally preach and teach. “He took so much time. He was truly a man of God and prepared me for what was to come.”

Ramirez knows exactly what an adulthood course correction feels like. His took place during service with the U.S. Marines.

“I saw my life going down the wrong path,” says the native of Amarillo, Texas. “Having the Spirit grip my heart showed me my life was not honoring God. I made a decision to turn my life over to Him.”

After the military, Ramirez spent time as an Amarillo police officer before sensing God calling him to a new career. He earned a bachelor’s degree at Southwestern Assemblies of God University before moving to Springfield, Missouri, to obtain his master’s degree.

As a student, a supervisory chaplain asked if Ramirez wanted to help at the Federal Medical Center in Springfield, introducing him to prison ministry. After graduation, he spent three years as an associate pastor before entering the Naval Reserves chaplain candidate program; he was assigned to the Bureau of Prisons in 2008. Ramirez is one of 100 correctional chaplains endorsed by the U.S. AG.

The chaplain served at prisons in El Paso, Texas, and Colorado before moving to Fort Worth in 2012.

The complexity of ministry is what Ramirez likes most about his work. He serves people with various mental and physical issues, plus a multitude of religious views, as well as ministering to staff members of ethnically diverse backgrounds.

“It’s really important that I’m walking out my faith, as opposed to just speaking about it,” Ramirez says. “The inmates and staff know I am a Christian, but it’s incumbent on me that I live that lifestyle in front of them.”

While not everyone shares his Christian beliefs, as a chaplain and “spiritual coach,” Ramirez says others feel comfortable talking with him. One non-Christian regularly asks Ramirez to pray for him.

He has led various inmates to profess faith in Christ. Ramirez says God often moves in men’s hearts gradually, making building relationships a key part of his work.

This crossing of boundaries extends to family life. Ramirez and his wife, Stephanie, are parents of four adopted children from a mixture of racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Because of their teenage son’s Black-and-Mexican heritage, they have become more intentional about reaching out to those of other backgrounds, including Jerrod serving on his school district’s diversity council.

The fruit of the chaplain’s work can be seen through Munoz’s life. Now off probation and active at Midland First Assembly of God, Munoz has begun the process of securing permission to reenter prison, this time as a chaplain.

Photo: Jerrod Ramirez (left) and his wife, Stephanie (right), have three children: Nathanel, Merci, and Josiah.

Kenneth C. Walker

Kenneth C. Walker is a freelance writer, co-author, and book editor from Huntington, West Virginia. He has more than 4,500 article bylines and has written, edited, or contributed to more than 90 books.