WARSAW — Sometimes it is the simplest gestures that have the most profound positive impact.
Jarod Osborne, who assumed the chaplaincy at the Kosciusko County Jail Jan. 1, offered the two approaches he takes to ministering to inmates.
“First, I just treat the person like a person. I know that sounds simple, but going in, shaking each inmate’s hand, looking them in the eye, asking their name and treating them as men and women before inmates” goes a long way to opening the door to the second approach.
“Share Jesus with them,” he said. “A lot of men and women have some sort of knowledge about church, Sunday school and ‘my grandma praying for me when I was growing up.’ But a lot of individuals have had a very difficult experience and have lost confidence Jesus can forgive them for what they have done in their lives and can transform their lives.”
Osborne lives in Warsaw with his wife, Esther, and their two children. The 38 year old has served as lead pastor of Pathway Church since 2015, when he moved here from his hometown of Ashland, Ohio. The 117-year-old congregation was formerly called Warsaw Wesleyan Church until the name was changed almost two years ago.
He received his bachelor’s degree in intercultural studies from Indiana Wesleyan University and earned a master of divinity at Princeton Theological Seminary. He is the author of “Jaded Faith: Hope for Those Who Still Want to Believe.” He has a fourth-degree black belt in taekwondo and enjoys backpacking and knife throwing.
Osborne said he met Kosciusko County Sheriff Kyle Dukes, when Dukes came to the church for a series on addiction. “I interviewed him during a Sunday morning service. I was volunteering in the jail’s chemical addiction program teaching a class on spirituality when Sheriff Dukes asked me to take on the chaplain role.”
The jail houses 250 to 300 inmates “depending on the day,” said Osborne.
“One of the most common surface barriers they face is addiction. A vast majority of those incarcerated also deal with addiction. It is hard to make good decisions if you are drunk or high and that whole picture of life becomes a huge barrier.”
The current pandemic has scuttled visits to the jail, but Osborne wrote the inmates a letter. “I told them God is still in charge, he loves us and he is going to shine through this crisis.”
Osborne offered several “ways everyone can live out making a difference wherever they are.”
First, he said, “simply be a good neighbor. If you see needs, just help as you can.”
He suggested churches become “felon friendly,” intentionally welcoming those not comfortable walking into a church. “Some of the men in jail go to church, but they have facial tattoos and people distance themselves.” He recommended finding the balance of being hospitable while maintaining safety.
“Larger needs for inmates when released are transportation, housing and jobs,” he said. Simply giving rides will provide much needed help and “a few businesses in the county have started setting aside second chance hiring spots, putting felons on work teams and supporting them at their level of need.”
Osborne said he is “trying to tune my ears to how God is at work,” and has discerned a lesson from the coronavirus phenomenon. “I realized Jesus started a movement and it spreads from person to person. Every Christian has the same spirit, calling and mission.
“That inspires me to keep remembering the contagion that everyone can make a difference with the power of God within them.”
For more information, call Pathway at (574) 267-7983 or email [email protected]