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This is a complete and accurate transcript of the oral history interview of Consuella York (CN 397, #T3) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations, such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. Readers should remember that this is a transcription of spoken English, which, of course, follows a different rhythm and rule than written English. The interview was initially recorded on cassette tape and later transferred to a reel-to-reel master; there is consequently some overlap at the beginning of #T4 from the end of #T3.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
() Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
 Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
This transcription was made by Christopher Easley and Paul Ericksen, and completed in July 1992.
Collection 397, #T3. Interview with Consuella York by Robert Shuster on November 21, 1988.
SHUSTER: ...few words and we'll see how it sounds.
YORK: [distorted and unclear phrase] for the opportunity.
SHUSTER: This is an interview with Reverend Consuella York by Bob Shuster for the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. This interview took place on November the twentieth at...
YORK: Twenty first [whispers].
SHUSTER: ...twenty-first, sorry, November the twenty-first, at 10:15 a.m., in the office at Reverend York's church. How did you first become involved in visiting prisons and jails?
YORK: Well, thirty-six years ago, an elderly woman by the name of Mother Elizabeth Oglesby knew I was doing mission work at the Cook County Hospital with the Light Bearers Association. I had reason to talk with her. I...I can't even remember how I met her there, but however, she said, "You're at the hospital and we need some Baptist women at the Cook County Jail. And will you come down to the jail, and maybe the Lord might lead you to work in the jail." I went strictly for observation purposes. I had not planned to do a jail ministry. I just came to see. And it was the [pauses] fourth Sunday in February 19 and 52, and I went out to the county jail and went through the cell blocks. There was Mother Oglesby...I mean, and we'd go right inside the cell blocks. It was on the first floor. I went into the cell block and she said, "In the jails you watch as well as pray, so you keep your eyes open." So we were on our knees in that cell block. And with my eyes open I looked between the bars. I mean, and I...nearly thirty-six years ago my...my oldest boy, I mean, I mean...he was born in 1942, so he was just nine, and...and...and my baby boy was just three, and my...
SHUSTER: The fellow who I...[pauses] the fellow I just meet?
YORK: Yes, that's right. See, I mean, I mean, and...and...and...and my...and my other son, he was, I mean...let's see, I think he must have been six. While I was looking between the bars, the Lord said, "Supposing one of those were your sons fifteen years from now. How would you feel?" I mean, and...and...and always I felt that anybody in jail should be in jail. But that one revelation from the Lord just struck me and I've been a jailbird ever since. [Shuster laughs] I mean, [pauses] that's...that's the way it started. I just went out there. And, I mean...and each time, even now as I deal with those men, I deal with them as if they were my sons, with the proper discipline, with the type...proper rebuke, with the type of understanding, and yet bottom line, with the proper love.
SHUSTER: In those first days, what did you do when you visited?
YORK: Just preached. I...there were, I mean...I...I...I...I was...I was in the seminary. I was in my last year in the Chicago Baptist Institute, so I'd go in and would just preach. It'd be...there's a group...there are seven groups that come to the jail on Sunday morning and they still come. And...and I was in this Oglesby group. And so we'd come and we'd give testimonies, sing songs and talk about Jesus, how men need to be saved, and how they can find Christ as their personal Savior.
SHUSTER: What are your...some of your favorite texts for preaching in the prison? Do you have a favorite text?
YORK: Well, I...I don't have favorite texts as such, but [pauses] there's a...there's a verse that Jesus said [pauses] when the folk were disturbed because he went to Zacchaeus' house. He said, I mean, I mean, "I...I come to seek and to save that which is lost." [Luke 19:10] I mean, He said, and [pauses]...and "haven't come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." [Matthew 9:13] I mean, I tell them about, I mean...and that...I use 2 Corinthians 5:17: "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away;" (because they are doing so many things that they need something to turn them around) and "behold all things become new," Scripture that deals with them, you know. I mean, the Bible says, "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God." [Romans 3:23] And then I...I...I emphasize regularly about Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death." And I tell the men what sin does to you. It kills you physically, it kills you mentally, it kills you spiritually, you know. And I...I...I...and I deal with a verse...that they deal with about sin, I mean. Then the verse that said that "him that comes to Me I will no wise cast out." [John 6:37] So you use Scriptures that deal with repentance and about Christ wanting to accept them. And then with the criminals, I tell them...I said, "Well..." They said, "Well, maybe Christ would not be concerned about me." I say, "He died between two thieves," I said. So, I mean, and...and then Isaiah 53 said, "And He was numbered with the transgressors and made His grave with the wicked," [Isaiah 53:9,12] I said, "so He understands well what's happening to you." And He said, "I didn't come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." [Matthew 9:13]
SHUSTER: What are some of the ways that people react when you preach to them about repentance?
YORK: Well, you know, I mean, [pauses] those men there who are...now, you see a lot of those men are there who were in alcohol and in drugs, I mean, and those men are bound. They are sane, basically, and sober, and you can reason with their minds if they can be reasoned with. I mean, I mean, and...and...and I tell them that "You ought to be ashamed of yourself." I come down very hard verbally, you know, I mean, I mean, to get their attention. They...they have a vernacular in the street, "My rap is strong, but my words are not wrong." [Telephone rings] See, then...that means I come down hard but what I'm saying to them is true. [telephone rings] And then...and then...and then after you break that hard core shell, then you start telling them, "Okay, aren't you sorry about what you did? Not sorry because you got caught, but sorry what you did to somebody." I said, "Most folk are just sorry they're caught." I said, "They've gotta to be sorry about their sins, because you don't realize 'every man must reap just what he sows.' [paraphrase of Galatians 6:7]" There's a word we use in the streets, "What goes around comes around." I said, "So what you put out you get back." I try to make them see, "You've got to be sorry," I said, "because what you're doing...supposing somebody did that to your mother or to your sister, or to your wife, your daughter." I said, "How'd you feel?" He said, "I'd feel bad." I said, "Well, remember, you done that to somebody's wife, some-body else's mother or sister." I said, "Don't you know, everybody...you pay off for what you do." I said, "And you don't want...." I said, "Would you like for somebody to kill everybody in your family. No!" I said, "Now you've killed a mass of folk." I said, Don't you...." I said, "If you be sorry about it and tell the Lord you're sorry about what you have done, then the Lord can...He will forgive you." I said, "You'll certainly pay your dues to society, but you'll have an opportunity to make amends, and the Lord will lighten the payment plans, and you can help somebody else to know that they shouldn't do it that way."
SHUSTER: What are some of the different ways that people react?
YORK: Well, [pauses] sometimes...basically, I mean, I...I haven't had many rebuttals. But sometimes a fellow sits there, and he listens and he agrees, And you get his attention, you do it in love. You...you...you...you don't [pauses] chastise with anger, you chastise with love, but you can make your voice very strong, very emphatic, that you can feel what they're feeling. And the basic reaction is sorrow and remorse. You meet sometimes somebody who...who's not responsive. But I tell them, "You stick around long enough, you'll...you'll come around to my way of thinking," you know. I said, "Just stay here a little while." I said, "Now I'm not paid to come to talk to you, so I'm not doing if for no salary. This is not a study course for me. It's a way of life. So you may as well adjust yourself." I said, "You know, matter of fact, I'm doing a light sentence, so I'm going to be your celly [cellmate] whether you like it or not And I will return," you know. See, and then...and then you...you get them interested. I...I try to get...we know...we distribute a lot of Bibles to the jail. The American Bible Society gives Bibles. I mean, I mean, I buy a lot of Bibles from different companies, I mean, I mean. And [pauses]... and I try to get them a Bible, let them read along with me what the Bible says and ask the Holy Spirit to sensitize this Word to their heart to the end that they'll make a change, to the end that they'll be called to serve for their sins, to the end that they accept Christ as their Savior, to the end that they'll walk in the newness of life, you know.
SHUSTER: When...so when the prisoners try to rebut you, what kind of things do they say?
YORK: "Oh, [pauses] oh sister, you all are talking that Jesus talk." I say, "Yeah, and I'm walking the Jesus walk too." I said, "I come to see about you," I said, "and...and I don't owe you anything." I said...and I said, "and you see I keep coming back. I'm not here on a little visit." Some things you say to them after you've been with them a long period of time, where strangers could not say to them without them being utterly upset. I mean, and...and I tell them.... He said, "I don't believe in Jesus." I, "Who do you believe in?" "Believe in myself." I said, "Self ain't nobody but the devil." I said, "In Him you live and move and have your being." [Acts 17:28] I said, "You're only tough after you wake up, but," I said, "He kept you alive while you were a sleep." I said, "A roach could have got in your nose and a rat could have bitten your toes." I said, "Lord wake you up." I said, "And then when you wake up you get tough. You need God's help, man. Without Him you can do nothing." You know, I said, "He loves you." I said, "He could have let you die." I said, "Remember that man [pauses] who pointed that gun at you?" [pauses] He said, "Yes ma'am." I said, "Remember, he could have pulled the trigger." I said, "As a matter of fact, he wanted to pull the trigger." I said, "But God knows you hadn't been saved and you wasn't fit to die. You'd go to hell." And so then you break the ice. You...you...you try to use...well, the Bible says, "He that winneth souls is wise." [Proverbs 11:30] So you have to use every method you can. When Jesus met a fisherman, He talked about fish. When He met a farmer, He talked about sowing seeds. When He [pauses] talked to a rich man, He talked about riches, what it amounted to. When He talked to lawyers, he...he discussed the questions. So you have to meet a man where he is to bring him where he ought to be in the Lord. You got to reach him and then teach him and then preach to him, you know. I say, "You gotta reach, then teach, then preach." A lot of folk don't respond to...to...to preaching 'cause they've never taught the Word. And...and...and a lot of those men have a chance to read the Word, so you got to know your lesson, so that when they come up with something, you'll know how to rebuttal [sic] them without anger. And then, I mean...and sometimes, when a fellow's talking real loud to attract attention to make a scene, and then I lower the boom on him with the Word of God, you know. See. He said, "This is my way." I said, "But the Bible said, "The way...there's a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." [Proverbs 14:12] See. "Why, you can't change me." I said, "No, only Christ can change you." "I've been like this twenty years." I said, "Rip Van Winkle slept twenty years and woke up and I never saw where he went back to sleep again." So you just use the things you know about to bring to the point that you want to bring them to. Now they have some Moslems there, you know, and they believe in Muhammad, you know. So I'd...I'd...I'd studied, you know, earlier in Comparative Religions [seminary course] the various religions, you know. So a man said, "Well, I'm a Moslem." I said, "Well, [pauses] Moslems believe in Allah. There's only one God," I said, "You call Him Allah. Call Him Jehovah, call Him Yahweh, Adoni, Elohim." [Hebrew names for God] I said, "It's only one God." I said, "But if you right through holy city of Mecca now and to the Mosque of Omar," I said, "and you look in there, they...they'll show you where the bones of Mohammed, I mean, is, I mean...the ashes." I said, "All the other places you go, to China, they'll tell you about Confucius, and he's dead." I said, "You go to India, well," I said, "Buddha, he's already dead 'cause he ain't got eyes. He can't see already." I said, "But you go to Jerusalem, and they say 'He's not here. He's risen as He said.'" [Matthew 28:6] I said, "So the Christ we serve is alive. All your leaders are dead, and mine is alive."
SHUSTER: Do you get much opposition from Muslims?
YORK: [Unidentified knocking sound] No, no. I tell them...I say, "Listen." I...I tell them all the time...I said, "You're breathing the same air I'm breathing." I said, "Matter of fact, you're really not a good Moslem or you're not a good Muslim," I said, "because you...you ought to believe in love, truth, peace, freedom, and justice, the crescent star." I said, "And you haven't had no love. And you don't...you haven't made no peace. And you're not justified, you know." I mean, I mean, I said, "You want your freedom, but you haven't done the other four points from the star, you know, so you're in trouble, you know." But you deal with them by.... What I do with the Moslem brothers...bringing food and whatnot in, I make sure I don't violate their dietary law. I make sure when I bring them something...I said, "Now you know, I'm...I'm not biased." I said, "I...I don't practice hatred and...and...and racism." I said, "When I go to the store, I keep all of you all in mind." I said, "When I get jelly beans, I realize you can't have any swine contents, so I make sure that the jellybeans I bring are not made from...from...from pork." I said, "When I...when I bring donuts, I make sure that they are not cooked with pork fat. I make sure there's vegetable shortening." I said, "So...and you got to use...but you go on just talking about my Jesus because He's the one who made me bring it to you." I said, "Say thank you Jesus! He said.... I said, "Come on off with it! I said, "because," I said, "you all as Moslems believe that Jesus was a prophet, but I believe that He's more than a prophet." I say, "Every Moslem knows that he has to recognize Jesus, that He's a prophet." I said, "But He's more than a prophet. He's prophet, priest and king. He's all of it." I said, "So any real Moslem won't fight Jesus, even though you don't understand Him in His fullness. You don't fight Him because, you know in your law that you know that Jesus was a prophet.
SHUSTER: And how would a Muslim react to that?
YORK: If he...if...if he's a Muslim, he'll say, "You're right Mother, you're right, you're right, you're right." I mean, I mean, [pauses] that...that when you come up with the truth and you know your lesson.... And I was telling him, I said, "Like Muhammad," I said, "When...when Muhammad started off in his areas and realms of his religion," I said, "he was a unlearned man. But his wife was a learned woman, and, I mean, she knew [pauses] secular training." I said, "But he was in a cave and a [pauses] angel came to him and told him there is only one God," I said, because that time they had many gods." I said...I said, "We...we know there's one God, and Muhammad knows there's only one God." I say, "You all call him Allah, but we call him Jehovah Jireh, or whatever it is. [Telephone rings] I mean, they respond.
SHUSTER: So you start with what you have in common and...
SHUSTER: ...go from there.
YORK: You have to have a common ground. [Telephone rings] You start with the common ground, and bring them up to the point that you want them to be. [Telephone rings] You don't [pauses]...you don't talk at a man or down him. You get his attention and you understand where he's coming from. A lot of folk are built in...a lot of inmates particularly have a lot of built-in bitterness and hatred and morbidity. And they've launched out into these strange religions because they were militant, or they've seemed to identify and make them an individual rather than massive [pauses] areas of life. And so you have to deal with them and see what causes them to be like this, why they go off into this, you know. Some of them are [pauses] let down by the general church, because they have not been sensitive to their needs, or they saw the minister as a person who was just getting the money from their families, and not [pauses] coming...relating back to their affairs. I mean, with criminals, I mean, like with everybody else, you have to tell it like it is. So I...I was just thinking this morning, a lot of people are thinking you go to jail, you know...you don't go there to cover up their sins. You go there to uncover their sins, but to make them know that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." [Romans 3:23] You don't justify any...any wrong. You don't go along with...you know, a lot of folks want to go...do jail ministries. They say, "I feel sorry for them poor little boys." I say, "You...you can feel sorry, all right, but don't go there with any mixed up idea about 'I'm going to gather them all in my bosom,'" I said, "because they...they... they'll take advantage of you." I said, "What you've got to know that they are souls that need to be saved, and you've got to sow the seed right there in their hearts, 'cause some will come up in good ground, and...and...and some will fall on stony ground." [reference to Jesus' parable in Mark 4:3-8] So a lot of times I deal with men and...and I think I've got them convinced with Jesus, and the next time I look up, he's coming back again [to jail]. But see, I say, "I can't follow you home. I can't baby-sit with you. You've got to let this thing be a part of you," you know. I mean, and [pauses] you...you deal with them on that level. And they...they...and all the men there, women and most of them [pauses] have some preconceived ideas about right and wrong, because their...all their idols are folk on the television who were doing the wrong thing and getting by, you know. And so you have to change the image. And the only way you can change a man's image is to change his outlook on life by letting him get into the Bible to see what the Bible says about it.
SHUSTER: What is an example of some preconceived idea of right and wrong that you find?
YORK: That...that [pauses], I mean, "I beat you before you beat me," you know. "That it's a...a...a rat race," you know. "That if I don't take it, I won't ever get it," you know. The idea that there...that nobody's right. "Everybody just helps folks because they got a ulterior motive." That there...there...I mean, a lot of times they said [pauses], "Why do you religious people doing coming down here? You must be taking a study course in the seminary or your college. You want to make me as one of your therapeutic instruments. I mean, I mean, I...I got some real problems. Deal with my issues," you know. See. I said, "Man, I did come to deal with your issues and I'm not on a program. And I...I've got a...I have got a motive. I'm trying to get you saved." I said, "In everything I do, I have got a motive." I said, "That's what you did in the world when you were out there [pauses] pimping the girls. You...you...you'd tell a girl she was beautiful and she was charming, 'cause you're trying to get her hooked on drugs. So I got a motive. Jesus is my motive. And every time you see me, keep in mind, my bottom line is Jesus. I'm trying to get you hooked on Jesus. But once you get hooked on Jesus, then your life can be different. And if you ...don't ever remember my name it won't matter, but you'll have something to keep you going on, and you'll become a messenger also."
SHUSTER: When you first started going to prison back in the fifties, that was Cook County Jail that you were going to?
YORK: Yes, Cook County Jail uh-huh.
SHUSTER: How did the...how did the guards and the prison officials react to you?
YORK: You know, I never have any problem with any of the officials. I always...I mean, if I'm...if I'm on a man's premise, I give them that...that which he has coming, you know. I mean, by going to your house, it's your house and you're in charge. I...I...I do like you want done. If I want to, meaning talk about Jesus, and I'm come into a correc-tional scene, then I want to go about it [unclear phrase], I mean. And...and...and I...and you'll find that you can do it easier. I mean, a long time ago, in one...one of the officers said, "Mother York! Don't get all them men saved. I won't have no job." I said, "Don't worry. Seeing as every day that when these leave, some more will come. Don't worry. You'll have a job." I...I try to work within the realms of the authority. And that's how a lot of people mess up when they do jail work. The officer has to do a job. The director has to do a job. So when I get ready to do anything, I come and ask them the guide-lines, that haves or have not what you can do. Then you go in there and then I respect them as [unclear]. And if he says, "You have fifteen minutes in here," I say, "All right." And when I'm preaching, I'm preaching, 'cause his ears are open too. I'm trying to get him saved too. But...but, and so he listens, and I don't ever front (that's a word...excuse me, I don't know how to change the word)...I don't...I don't try to embarrass the officer. See, I realize sometimes that they have their problems. They're all human beings, I mean. But, if an officer has a problem and he's kind of difficult, he's stern with the inmates, I never reprimand him, I mean, in the public. I mean, I get to know him first. Then if I watch his movements and I think maybe he's not ethically doing it properly, I say, "Officer, may I see you?" I get him off to the side and talk with him. I say, "You need Jesus too." And then a lot of times I realize that, I mean...a lot of times the inmates are out of order, but I realize the officer's in charge, and my response to him for letting me see the men, I tell him "If he does not knock down on two, I cannot come through." I said, "So always treat the officer with respect because he's supposed to let me in here to see you." And that way you...you...I become a liaison between inmates and officers. At the same time, when I...when I blessed the inmate, I've helped the officer. And a lot of officers have received Christ as their Savior. They...they can't...they can't make their signal high like the others because men take advantage. Folk have a tendency to take advantage of you if they think that you got feeling. They say, "Yeah, you're supposed to be a Christian." So they use that as an excuse to make you mess up. So a lot of officers don't show themselves as Christians in the eyes of the...of the inmates. And yet they're God-fearing, God-believing men and women.
SHUSTER: You say that's where a lot of people in prison ministry make the mistake, in the way they relate to the officers? How do you mean that?
YORK: You see, sometimes officers are cool. They've got a job. They tell you...we had orientation last week, and I was glad for...for the volunteers to come and hear them, because I'm very rigid about what they bring in, how they dress, I mean, how they what not, I mean, I mean. And so the officer told them that "These men are incarcerated. You have a requirement." So if they come, they say, "You can't bring this in." "Well why can't I bring this in?" "Well, you can't do that," you know. I mean, I mean, and he said, "Well, the officer was...did not [pauses]..." he said, "the officer did not respond to me." I said, "He's not here to respond to you. You're here to follow his instructions, because he's the person who allows you to go in and see the prisoner. So if they tell you, 'You can't get too close,' well, don't get too close. If they say, 'You can't give him this,' don't give it to them. But work within the realms of what they' re saying, and then you'll get a chance to get your point across to the end they'll say, "Oh, these folk are working with the program." Because there are a lot these folk now who have ulterior motives. A lot of religious volunteers have been bitter about something's happened in their family years back. And they say, "I'd like to get a chance to tell some of those prisoners off. Since I've become a volunteer in the jail, and I get a chance to read them off." "But they... you...you've already flunked the examination before you take it because [unclear phrase]. They can sense genuine actions and genuine love and genuine concern, and those folk would just go into procedures, you know. See, but you got to [pauses]...the...as long as I've been there in the...they've let me do a lot of things in the jail. But whatever I've got to do, before I do anything, I go up to the director or the superintendent, or who's a warden, or the captain, sergeant or lieutenant, whoever's in charge, and ask them, "Is it all right if I do thus and so?" "Yes ma'am, Mother York, it's all right." If I bring something in they...I said, "Can I give them this?" They said, "Wait, no, they can use it as contraband." All right. I didn't say, "Well listen here. You don't know what your doing!" No, no. You work with the system. And then when you get inside the door, you can come out with it. They know that you mean business. But see, a lot of folk flunk and they get so mad. "I just hate that officer." "No, you don't do like that. You win him over." I had a big officer once, and he was very stern. And I'd be preaching and he...he slammed the door. [pauses] And I just kept right on. I just kept right on coming back, coming back. One day he broke down. And...and most of the time, you don't have to defend yourself. Somebody else will defend you. Sometimes inmates say, "Officer, you didn't have to be that rude. You see me trying to hear about the Lord over here. You ought to be glad, you know." You see, if you be quiet, they'll fight your battles for you, you know, see. And as I've said, there're...there're those who sometimes...who adverse [?], but you keep right on going. The law of love works in capacities few men would think of. You can draw them in with...the Lord says, "With loving-kindness have I drawn them," [paraphrase of Jeremiah 31:3] so you can draw them in. And then those...and I realize no man can come unless the Lord draws him. So if a man does not respond, I figure that's a part of it, you know.
SHUSTER: What's the toughest part about prison ministry?
YORK: The toughest part for me is when I see a man after I think he's really accepted Christ, (I know he's accepted Christ), but he...he comes back again, over and over again, and...and the bell had not rung. And yet I realize that...that it's difficult to be right after you've been wrong, unless you have some support outside. And I can't bring them all here to the church. They've got to go back to there neighborhoods, their vicinities, their homes. And most times they get back...most of us, we [pauses] profess but we don't possess. And if a...if a man has been incarcerated and has done a lot of evil, I mean, I mean, and he's had a change of heart while he's in jail, unless he's had some after care when he is finished, he goes back to it. You see, it takes a lot of nurturing, a lot of dealing with it, you know, getting to the core of why they did it, because if you're going to change a man's heart and...and make him see what he's been doing wrong, he'll come back to society the same way he left out. That's why they got so many repeaters, because he come back in the same way he left out. Whereas if...if a man gets...they say a lot of men get jailhouse religion [convenient religious experience], but a lot of them do, but a lot of them have some serious experiences with the Lord and so in coming out if they have a support team, they're able to hold to what they have [doorbell ringing]. But if they don't have anybody to help them, I mean, they would find themselves in vast jeopardy, and they're back again. They say, "Mother York, what you said to me is good. But you know, I needed some money, you know, and nobody was at my house," I mean. "Did you go to church?" "No, I didn't go to church. I couldn't go to church. Too far away." And you get those back and again. My heart is split. You see them coming back, 'cause usually the first time I talk with them, they have a minor charge. And by the time I see them again, after they come back two or three times, they got a murder beef where they'll be going to penitentiary the rest of their lives. But I've got some men there who say, "I'd rather be locked up where I can walk with the Lord, than to be free," I mean, I mean, "and not walk with Him." It's difficult, you...you know. It's...I...I find that our thought pattern has major reactions on our...what we do every day, I mean. And you have to stay in this Bible to really know what's right and what's wrong. For "there's nothing new under the sun" [Ecclesiastes 1:9], I mean. He is...you're...you're trying to be straight and then somebody comes along and upsets you and disturbs you. He said, "I thought them people were Christians." So you gotta tell them, "Open your Bible just a minute to the fifty-fifth Psalm, where David said, "It wasn't my enemy who did me wrong. I could have hidden myself from him. But it was my guide. We took sweet counsel together. We were in a house of prayer together." [Psalm 55:12-14] So you have to make them know that what's happened to them, it's been a universal situa-tion. "It's in the Bible. But if you don't never read the Bible, you won't know that what...that folks' hearts, their minds, their walk, they prefer to be evil." And so when a man who wants to do right comes out and see some folks doing otherwise, they say, "I thought they're supposed to be Christians." I said, "I thought you're supposed to be right too." And the only thing to keep the person straight is to stay in the Word. I mean, I mean, undiluted, just raw Word facing reality. And it's so cold-blooded, it'll...it will just tear you up yourself. But yet that's one thing that will keep you straight. When you... when you sit down and conceive evil all the time, I mean, you've got to know that you're wrong, that you walk...there's something wrong with you. And so you've got to ask the Lord to take out that heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. [2 Corinthians 3:3?] But most time folks don't want to deal with it because they want to have a...just a little regular written-out sermon that's that'll put them to sleep like milk sugar. But you've got to deal with facts. Here's this man, has a criminal mind. He's a molester. He's a child abuser, I mean. And you've got to make him..."Now listen, man. The Bible said, 'Don't violate your daughter, you sister, you neighbor's child.' That's wrong." Because he said, "To be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded life." [Romans 8:6] But you've got to deal with it. And you got to deal with it in so much love that if he's in a crowd, I don't look at him when I have former inmates come to service. When I get ready to deal with some drastic issues of things they...they were guilty of, I'd be looking the other direction. But he know I'm talking to him. I just let it...let it fall on him. I mean, I say, "Anybody learning anything?" "Yes indeed." I say, "But now, let's go back to your dope habit. Like your cigarette habit, you got to come regular, because if you don't come regular, I mean, you...you won't be able to grasp this thing." I say, "You...how do you get hooked on drugs? You start taking a little bit and you start coming every day. How did you start smoking cigarettes? Start smoking one, then two, the whole pack. That's the same with the Lord. You've got to come regular, get regular dosage. I've gotta give you the treatment all the time. Now it's raw sometimes, but you'll find that's what you need to have!" And then you'll see a breaking down. He leaves, but he'll come back. And just last week, a man who'd...who'd...who's done, I think he's did seven years in maximum security in the penitentiary, I mean, he was like an animal. He was cagey, you know, all before. He didn't smile, he didn't break because he was a contract murderer. If the...if the head of a gang told him to go kill somebody, he didn't ask any questions. He was loyal to the man. He'd go and kill him and then come on back. He was cold blooded, you know. But, while he was incarcerated, he found the Lord. He had...he found communion with the Lord. He...he said...he said he talked with the Lord everyday. He said, "I just sat down here so I could just talk to Him, and He would talk back to me." So he...so...but now he's been locked up in that confinement, in his little world. He shut everybody else out, so just him and the Lord. So he didn't face realistic living outside. So when he came out, you know, I mean, I mean, he was having some rough times. He didn't want to go back into the gangs, yet he had found himself surrounded with it. But he come to church [pauses] with his woman. I said, "You need to be married to her. You all have been through some changes." And I know that they're married 'cause I performed the ceremony. She had been on drugs and he had been on drugs. And I had to like baby-sit with him continuously, you know, trying to talk to him and break the shell. He said, "Listen, I've been a thug thirty-three years. You're trying to make me a saint in a year." I said, "You're overdue already." I mean, I mean, and I...and he'd come and I...and I...and I'd do hard work. Sometimes I would have to go downstairs in the basement, you know. There's always something to do around the church. You give him some hard work to keep his mind active. Well, I'd talk to him, you know, about tearing down this structure, about what he was doing wrong. And I [pauses]...I would almost baby-sit with him. If I give him some money, I doled it out to him. I...I...I got...I got him a job working with my son, but he...he...he,,,he was hard on taking orders. He'd always flare back because he...the officers would say something to him, he'd always flare back. So when he got out, at his the supervisor he'd flare back. But he could see to it personally if he was wrong or right, so it made it hard to adjust, you know. If I get him off by himself, he'd work good. If I put him with somebody, he'd have a problem. But he came here [pauses] and...and...and...and he'd...he'd come in the morning. He said, "Listen Mother, I need some prayer this morning," 'cause he was very violent. I mean, the wife would say something to him, she'd say something adverse, he'd black her eye, you know, or knock her teeth out, you know. They'd have to put him in jail again, and come back out. But she was...she was aggravative [sic] too, you know. So...so he stopped...he got a little job and he stopped coming regular. But he came the other day to see me. Before...before that [pauses] started, he'd come in the morning time. He said, "I've got to have a prayer this morning. I...I'm not feeling right." And I...I talked to him. I said, "Listen here." I said, "I'm not gonna entertain it wrong, 'cause you can get yourself together." I looked him right in his eye, you know, right. I say, "You can have a change of heart." "You're right, you're right. I'm not arguing about you. You're right. I said, "Well, make a change." "But Mother, you don't realize when I leave you, I got to go back home and this woman...." I said, "Well, listen man, you...what I teach you, you ought to go home and teach your wife." "She don't want to hear nothing. She got sugar [?]." I said, "Well, tell her anyway." "Well, then I'll go off." And so, I mean, I kept on and he, I mean...he...first time in his life he ever did anything that was constructive, he finished a dentistry course, and...but I got the diploma [doorbell rings] here where he finished it. That was good.
SHUSTER: Finished the what course?
SHUSTER: Oh, dentistry.
YORK: You know making, I mean, I mean, [pauses] false teeth. You know, they have this program where you can go, you know. I mean, and [pauses]...but, and then he's got another little job, and that thing...my son gave him a job and he didn't come to work regular. He...he said, "I failed. I failed again. I never complete anything. I've failed again." I said, "No, you come back. There's something to do." "Mother, I let you down." "No, you'll let yourself down." But he came last week. He said, "Mother, I'm off for my job. I know I've been missing the services." I said, "Yes, you've gone right back into the pits." He said, "You're right." He said, "But you know what? I felt myself going back into my past sins. I knew I couldn't fool you. You told me always be truthful with you. I have gone back. I'm doing wrong. I'm dealing in drugs. And I knew I couldn't come here every day and talk with you about the Lord, and know I was going to deal in drugs, so I stopped showing up. But don't turn me loose and don't stop praying for me! You know I need some help. Just don't put me down now." He wanted fifteen dollars. I said, "You've gotta work for it." "I know that." I said, Take your coat off, go down stairs." I said...I said...he said, "You're work me like an Egyptian slave. I said, "Whatever I'm doing...." I mean, I mean, and before he left, I had to pray for him. He said, "I know my life is [audio interference obscures speaking for one second]. But I'm not gonna to play games. And I told my friend that 'I'm not going to fool Mother,' so I...since I've gone back to my sense, I'm not going to come up here and act like I'm for real and I'm not." So they have a sense of integrity even in a wrongness. Whereas we go along and we cover over and pretend like we are all right. They realize they're wrong. And when they know that your for real with them, they don't play games. I deal with them. I said, "Don't ever lie to me. If you're doing it again, don't lie to me. I can't cover you." I said, "The Bible said, "A liar won't tarry.'" [Psalm 101:7] I said, "I don't care what your weakness is. Tell me the truth." I mean, I mean, and that way you...you can relate to the.... But you see, most folk don't have that type of support team, because it's rigorous to labor with a fellow every day. You think you've got him together, he falls apart. But that's the way Jesus does us. Every day He gives us a brand new set of mercy, 'cause if we flop today.... But He doesn't give up on us. He called us long before we heard. And so but...but when it comes to somebody else we say, "Yeah, but that's the Lord, that's not me." Well, I mean, we gotta, we...he said, "What you've done to the least of these my brothers, you've done unto me." [Matthew 25:40] Now think about that. And I'm a terrible loser. Oh, I...I'm a...that's why I've never gambled. I am a terrible loser. Oh, I mean, and [pauses] I realize that even when you're losing on the Lord's side, you're winning. But, I mean, I hate to give a person up. I...I hate to figure...I say, "Lord, maybe.... Did I tell him enough? Was I emphatic enough? But did I show enough concern. Did I overdo it? Did...did they see me instead of You." I'd be asking a lot of questions in my mind. And the only consolation I have is sometimes the Lord says, "Nobody can come unless I draw them. But since you don't know them, you're not a good judge of...of human nature. You just give them and you sow the seed." Rev. [Anthony?] Evans preached that yesterday. He said, "You're so...." He said, "Some of the seed fall on stony ground, some are going to fall along the wayside." He said, "But a few will fall in good ground." [reference to Jesus' parable in Mark 4:3-8] And so that's what keeps me going back. I said, "Well, Lord...." But I'm always asking questions. "What did I do wrong that this man did not stay right, this woman did not stay? What did I do wrong? What did I say wrong? Did I respond right? Did I overemphasize? Did I underemphasize?" I've asked myself all of those questions. "Did they see me instead of Jesus? Did they hear me instead of the Lord's Word?" I ask myself all of them questions. And then so I ask, I..."Listen, listen man, woman, what did I do?" "Mother it was none of you." I said, "Let me...." I said, "Did I fail?" "No, it wasn't you. It was me. I just wasn't ready. I...I didn't buy the whole ball of wax. I just...I just couldn't hold down, or I still had that dog blood in me. I was still wanting to do wrong. And you're trying to help me so I just got away rather than be hypocritical."
SHUSTER: What's the best thing about prison ministry?
YORK: When I see a person coming back in who's for real, who's walking with the Lord, who...who means business, who...who...who...who...who's fired up for God and just giving all he's got, and not even bothered because you didn't know... accepting me just determined. "Well, that's what I put out. I did...I rejected so now somebody's going to reject me." Somebody who walks with the Lord, with or without, without breaking down. There's a man and woman, they're on Sixty-third Street, Angie and Bob Wheaton. They've been on Channel Thirty-eight, a lot of the programs. Here...here is a husband... it's a husband and wife team. I mean, both of them were in the world together, in drugs and prostitution, in international trafficking, and counterfeit money and all that. And they're working there on Sixty-third Street in that mission. I mean, I mean, and they're dealing with the same kinds of people that they were, I mean. And they're going by the day, they're going by the day is rough. Now here's a man who could get money hand over fist. Here's a woman who...who could prostitute and get money. But they are going through these channels of having...not having anything, yet trying to help some by having a door open. They knew all...they know all the lines the folk tell because they told a lot of them. But in there laboring. And, I mean, they're out there on Sixty-third Street, giving out bread, and trying to make housing, you know. And their money would be real short a lot of times. Mine is shorter but.... I mean, if I said, "Now how you doing? And I pass by, I got a little piece of money, and put it in their hand, 'cause they're trying to help somebody. They're determined they're going to stay on this side. They're not going back, know matter how rough it is. Now, that...that...that's the joy. I mean, when a minister comes here that I've known in jail, who's preaching the Word, who's got his family back, who's walking with the Lord.... There's a young man [pauses] [doorbell rings] who got saved in the county jail and he's a minister now, I mean, and he's a preacher. He was a little assistant pastor. Now, he's got a trucking business. He does moving and whatnot. And he opened up a store. He had a clothing store. He went to the [pauses] distributor and merchandisers and got a lot of merchandise and things. They let...let...let him sell clothing, women's and children's clothing, out in Altgeld Gardens [section of Chicago]. See, he had a nice store. I mean, just pretty customers coming in, I mean, I mean. And now watch this. Before he started preaching, he was a stick-up artist. He'd go in and rob different places. And so he has this nice store in the folk are [pauses] just coming in and buying, and...and...and a couple of times went in there, I mean, and they'd stole his stuff out. I said, "Late dues, [Shuster laughs] late dues!" He said, "What'd you say mother?" I said, "Late dues. I remember when you was a stick-up man." I said, "Now...." I said, "What'd you do?" (I didn't know whether he did or not?) I said, "Put...put...put a card on the box and say, 'Listen brother, I use to be more like you. Don't take the whole box. Leave me some to sell,' you know." And they...but you know what? [pauses] 'Cause the Bible say, "After we cease from the spoil, then we shall be spoiled." [paraphrase of Isaiah 33:1] I said, "Because you get saved, that does not mean you're not gonna reap what you've sown. It means that God offers you a light payment plan. And he gives them benefit. I said, "So after you...you've stop sinning, you got some dues to pay." So I told them...I said, "Now you see that what you did? Somebody did it to you. No need to call the police." So what...so what he end up doing, he just ended it, get out of the business. I said, "But don't be upset," I said, "because that's what you did." "Yes ma'am." I said, "So..." I said, "the Lord's been...the Lord didn't let you st...let the man steal it all. He gave you enough to make a living. Right?" So he was able to see. I said, "Face the reality." But listen, that man is a family man. That man preaches to heaven, gets to knows you, just...you just...he just does good. I mean, I mean and...and...and when he...and he's got men working for him, you know, I mean. And he was...was a stick-up artist, and doing everything. But he got saved in that jail. But nothing that... reverse that he has, he...he had no mind to ever go back. I mean he called sin like he sees it, and every time...and he can really relate to other men because he's been there. He sat in their shoes, you know. And every time I see a man, who's working with the Lord and doing what the Lord said do, then that...that's a check, that's my check right there. That's my check, you see. And I try to encourage the young ones that come out. He said, I'm having some reversals." I said, "That's a part of it. Yeah, sure you're going to have some reversals. The Lord said, 'He who wouldn't live godly must suffer persecution." [2 Timothy 3:12] [unclear phrase]
SHUSTER: No, no, it's fine, it's fine.
YORK: Oh, okay. I mean, I...I want you to cut it for a minute so that I can.... [Recording stopped and then restarted]
SHUSTER: Do you visit women prisoners, too? Women in prison?
SHUSTER: Do you notice any difference between male, female prisoners?
YORK: Basically, [coughs] there're a lot of similar traits. Women seem to be...a lot of women seem to be harder [pauses] than men. Those who [pauses] have long records of crime, they become very cold-blooded. They can be much harder than men. A lot of women have had a lot of marital problems, a lot of difficulties, and men [pauses] have turned them on to major sin, I mean, and so they're...some of them are anti-men. They're very bitter, you know, and they don't respond. They've held bitterness for years, and...and bitterness brings iniquity and strife. And a lot of things they do, they're fighting back. They do it you know. And some of the women who are murders and women who are [pauses] armed robbers are very cold-blooded. They...they...they hit the panic button, and some of them are very manipulative. Yet down inside, they're still mothers with compassion, and you can...you can...if you hit their responsive cord, they respond, they respond. They...I mean, I mean, that...that mother touch is still there in spite of what they are doing. But you have to deal with them. And most folk, like I said before about the men, most folk deals with the issues rather than the individual. But when you deal with them as individuals, knowing that all of us have human needs and human weaknesses, and problems, and fears, then you can win them across, I mean. But women suffer a lot of things, in...in prisons, I mean, and they...they loose their identity, they loose their femininity, a lot of them. They become hard core. So you have to reach them in love, and yet with compassion, you know, because the drugs make them tell all kinds of lies to get it, I mean, I mean. But most of them, a lot of...a lot of...lot of pregnant women [pauses] in the jail, I mean. And...and I was telling them Saturday, I said, "Remember, [pauses] what you are, your children will become." I said, "When you harbor hatred and.... Stop it.... [recording stopped, restarted with audio interference for 10 seconds]
YORK: [unidentified metallic noise] I mean, and...and...and so it makes it a problem for them. But...but...but the...but the women [pauses] have...I guess they have greater problems than the menfolk when they're confined, because they're weary, they get depressed often because they miss their children, you know. I mean, and now that they're sober and secure, you know, they got a lot of fears and whatnot. And they're...a lot of...they are manipulated by others who...hardened criminals and whatnot. So they need the warmth and love that you give them, and they respond to that. They break down, I mean, I mean, and they respond. But then when they meet with society again, they become cold because the habits...a lot of them have had drug habits, because men have given them a habit and then they have to prostitute to sustain the habit, or rob...[unclear word]. A lot of them get into murder and they get hooked up. So they end up with violence even more. So you have to deal with them with compassion, the thing that they [pounds for emphasis] have innate in them already, you know.
SHUSTER: Have you...as you say you've been working in prison ministry from the early 50s....
SHUSTER: Has the prison system changed over the years?
YORK: Yes, we...we've seen a lot of drastic positive changes. See, years back folk thought that a prisoner was just somebody to be housed, to be misused, and they...they... they done wrong. That's what they've got coming. So they've got a lot of positive things that [pauses]...that...that tend to give inmates a lot. Now, they can come to jails now and get secular training. They've got the finest of educational facilities. They've got law libraries where they can study, I mean. They...before they had, I guess...had cuts, financial cuts they had at the women's division, they had...they had a beauty shop in the women...I mean, knew how to do hair, and a teacher who taught them how to sew and make uniforms and things, you know. I mean, men who are interested in going to school or young men, they could...they have a board of education that has facilities inside, where the men could go to school, you know. So there're a lot of positive things. If a man wants to or a woman wants to do better, there are some facilities available to them that makes a difference. And the...the influx...the mentality [pauses] of the officers.... Basically, (now there are exceptions to all rules), but basically, they're humane individuals, who sense except by the grace of God it could be them. So...so it's very positive. And...and the things that they allow me to do in the jails, I know it's...it's only the Lord, you know. I mean, and I...I realize it's isolated cases in some aspects of it, but it's...it's the Lord because they...they could administrative-wise say, "No, you can't do what your doing." I couldn't do it. But they see what a difference it makes, you know, that human concern like men have. [Pauses] As you know, I take in soap. They'll let me take in soap, and toothpaste, and all the different, I mean, hygiene toiletries that people need. And then they let me bring the food in. And those things are human touches. And they've found when a man is satisfied, and he's full, and he's been shown some love, I mean, even on...I'm not trying to get him out of jail, but he's calm in it, I mean,
because the folks in [Cook] County Jail are waiting time. Some of them have been there for two years, but they...that's not the prison. They're waiting time, I mean...waiting for court hearings, and going back to court again, I mean, a pre-s...a pre-sentencing hearing, somewhat like that. So...so the things they let me do help the men, you know [phone ringing]. When I first started, I...I...I brought in bread, let me start [phone ringing] by.... I saw the men had only one slice of bread. That was in the late sixties, and. I mean, I mean, and I said, "Oh, the men need some bread." Now the administration could have said, "You can't do anything about that." So I said, "Do you mind if I bring some extra bread in?" I mean, so I'd...I'd bring in three whole...three hundred loaves of bread, I mean, and put it out in the basement. The men never knew who brought it in. And then it was hot. Well, you know, everybody likes watermelon, and whatnot. And I asked the...the...the warden, I said, "Can I bring some watermelons in?" See, but now what I do...you don't...you don't...you have to... when you do something, you had to do it, mass-wise. 'Cause, you see, if I just bring some food in to you every week, well, that's a personal interest. But you have to [pauses] stretch it out, you know, I mean. And they've seen the responses, I mean. Sometimes...now, we'll...we...or like we have Bible class. They've had men from every tier come down, Black, White, Latino, you know, I mean, all different kind of.... And they...and they...and they come down to the service, and they see that makes a difference, 'cause all of them hear the same thing, and I don't...I'm not biased. I give every man the same thing. So they...these progressive things are...are good. It's...it's...it's just marvelous. And all the volunteers they let come in now. There are so many progressive things that they have going, I mean, I mean, and get.... They have to orientate them and tell them what's involved. But that...a lot of human beings are...are...they're not just robots. Human beings are in authoritative positions, I mean, and...and...and...and now, with all the white collar crime, and other things, folk are realizing this, and so now sometimes a fella goes to jail, they have some rest. Three hots [meals] and a cot [laughs].
SHUSTER: So you think that prisons are better now than when you first started?
YORK: I mean, in...in...where we...where we are. Now, I mean, now there're other jails and things, I mean, in...in...in nearby vicinities are not like...
SHUSTER: Not like in Cook County.
YORK: ...but not like at Cook County. I mean, the things that they're just starting to orchestrate in other penitentiaries, they do it in Cook County already, because.... I...I don't know [pauses] the reasons, but I...I...I...I hold God responsible for all the good things that are happening. But...but, a lot of...a lot of prisons, I mean, are still antiquated, you know. They still have the pot system. But you...you have to change the mentality of those in charge.
SHUSTER: What's the pot system?
YORK: You know, like where have...they have old fashioned toilets, you know, and there's some place where they had to empty the...the buckets, you know, I mean. And...and I [pauses] listened at the correctional convention, they said where there are some places where they still have those things, I mean, [pauses] and where men sit, men are prisoners, they are animals, they cage them up and they just live like that. But now, the whole of the people are understanding, and we realize there...there are some indi-viduals that have to be restrained because men...they live...that they've seen that there's no hope for a change. And yet when you see these outstanding men who've come out, who [unclear phrase], like, you know, Murf the Surf [Jack Murphy, an ex-convict now involved in prison ministry], those people who've done time, you can see that it's still workable. But somebody has to be able to come in to deal with them. God makes a difference. Christ is really the bottom line, and it...and it...and it's God who gives you favor of the folk in authority, like with Joseph in that...in the Egyptian prison [Genesis 40 & 41], I mean, I mean. And...and when the mentality of those in charge changes, and the mentality of those who come in change, and the mentality of those who works with them change, then you've got a complete [pauses] change system that is motivated by Christ through God who makes a difference. You won't win them all, but the ones you win are permanent winnings, you know. But it...but it has to be...has to be done. If there were no Christian services in the prisons, oh, it would be a beastly thing forever. It has to be...Christ has to come in. And when He's allowed to come in the system sees the difference. They...they see the results of volunteers and Christian services and chaplains and whatnot. They see it. And they respond to it, I mean. And it makes all the difference in the world. Where without it, you just cage your man and house a man or a woman, leave them there. You can come out and.... I saw excerpts from some type of program last week. Those little juveniles who had committed murder, I mean, and whatnot. And one little boy said, "If you let me out I'm going to do it again." So, I mean, I mean, so some will not be able to ever come out until his heart is changed. And...and...and...and...and some...the other philosophers have felt that therapy and...and education, all those things.... But without Christ, none of that stuff lasts. Christ has to come in and change the heart of every individual. And when Christ comes in and the Lord allows folks to come in, it...that's what...that's...that's the bottom line. If there is no heart change, all this other stuff won't mean nothing. It'll last a little while, but in a few months and weeks, they going to drift back to that same thing. They've become more manipulative, you know. They do it more strongly. But when Christ is in, Christ makes a difference. He makes a difference.
SHUSTER: Do you have...do gangs in prison affect your ministry at all?
YORK: Not me in particular. It affects, I mean, a lot of people, because they [pauses]...gangs are manipulative. What I did with all the gangs, I said, "I'm the gang leader. [Pauses] And...and my boss keeps you breathing. And you are just...." I said, "They've...," I said, "they've always had gangs." I said, "David had a gang." I said, "David had some tough men with him. He wanted some water one day. [1 Chronicles 11:10-19] And him, he was fighting with the enemy and he wanted some water. And he had three men. They were so tough, they went on...(the water was on the enemy's side) those three men went on the enemy's side and got David some water. And when David...they brought the water back, David said, 'I can't drink this water. You took this at the cost of your life.' He asked...sacrificed to the Lord." I said, "Now those were bad men. So they've always been...." I said, "Paul was a gang leader." [Acts 9:1ff] I said, "When he got ready to persecute the church, he had his men with him on the way." I said, "It's a different category, but they've always had those, I mean. Joab was head of David's gang." [1 Chronicles 11:6] I said, "That's the gangs." I said, "But when God comes in, He changes all of this and makes a difference." I mean, I mean, and [pauses] I...I...I...I don't...I don't allow myself to become manipulated by the gangs. I don't show favoritism to...to...one set of folks so you won't be manipulated by the gangs. I said, "Look here. All of you are human beings, all of you suffer, all of you are hurting, all of you are hungry, all of you all are going to do time, all of you all will eat the same food, I mean. So, so, I mean, you are just hooked up. But...but listen." I said, "You just take advantage of somebody" I said, "but when seven men jump on one man, that...that...that's not bravery. That's tyranny." I said, "You take advantage of somebody else." I said, "Remember, what goes around comes around." See I said, "The fella that needs to be on the opposite side...." But you know what I found out? These gangs have their own rules and regulations. And if saints had that type of integrity, they could depopulate hell. I mean, [pauses] if you violate, your own folk do something to you. I mean, and, of course, the Bible said, [unclear phrase] "Don't...don't take a brother to court, you know, I mean, before an unjust judge, 'cause saints are going to rule the world." [paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 6:1-2] Well see, if you're in the gang and you turn your hat the wrong way, they'll violate you, I mean, they'll jump on you in the...on their own gang, you know. But see...but most of those gangs are young men who have [pauses] no home training, no love at home. None. I mean they want to identify with somebody. Somebody said, "You kill two or three folk, I'll put you in charge." So he gets that idea and then they go through busting heads and doing things. And...but they don't realize when they get through, they go to penitentiary, somebody does the same thing to them. Where "he who lives by the sword perishes by the sword." [Matthew 26:52] But I tell them, "All of you are together." And the Lord allows them the...all of them come down to my service. And I tell them, I say, "Listen, no gang signs in here. Don't pass no [unclear] in here. Don't do nothing. This is Jesus. He comes to help everybody. Please," I said, "when you come in, you better lay all that crap down. Don't come here trying to hook up. You hook up with the Lord," I say, "'cause [pauses] if you mess up, and they...and...and they take you out of here and put you in a hold, don't call for me, 'cause I'm not going to have anything to do with it." I said, "There are some places that are no-no." Then I cited the instance [2 Chronicles 22:10-23:15] about..."Was there a young king named Josiah, I mean, whose mother Athaliah killed all the royal children, and his sister hid him, and they made him the king, I mean, I mean. And when they got ready to crown him as the king, his...his mother heard about, and she came into the temple and hollered 'Treason.' They were going to kill her in there. He [Jehoida the priest] said, 'Now don't kill her in there, don't kill her. You take her outside.' Took her out there with the horses and they trod on her. That's in the Bible," I said. "Listen, so anything you want to try to try, it's in the Bible. Just...," I said, "don't [unclear word] violate the Lord's house." 'Cause sometimes the men would come to a religious service just a [pauses] chance to get together for gang elements. I said, "Not at my service. You're gonna hear about Jesus in here." I said, "If you don't like Him, you're going to listen...hear about Him. Not in here." I said, "All of you," you know. So I have Latin Kings, and Spanish Cobras, and Black gangs, the Disciples and Vice Lords [names of various gangs], I mean, and all of them come to the service. And I give...I give all of them the same treatment, go through the same procedure. See, I mean, but...but a lot of times folks, they're intimidated by them. But as I said, if...if...if you're fair, you know, you...[pauses] if you show partiality, you...you're in a bind. [Unclear word or phrase] you got to know what a person has done, but deal with him on the basis if he had not done it. That's the only way you can help him. But psychologically, if you think about what a man had done when you get ready to deal with him, you're trying to hit that soft spot, and that's not it. Jesus talked to everybody...I mean give all of them, I mean, I mean, [pauses] and every man has a fair shake. The Lord lifts the sinner up and the dope fiend up and the pushers, every morning like he does us. So he gives everybody a chance. And then if a person does not accept Christ, Christ has given him a chance. But He...He...He...He treats us all fairly and squarely. So you have to do that in jail, because, I mean, I mean, most of the time I don't know what the men have done, except I see it on television or something. I deal with them in the spirit of Christ. And then by the time, I mean, I found about what he's done, well, it really doesn't matter. [pauses] (That your...that... that your thing?) I mean, I mean, so...so what I do is...because I know that [pauses] if I think about what he's done, it...it prejudices your mind inside. You said it doesn't but it does. So...so I try to deal with him. Now there's some...there's some that I do know what they've done in advance. And I say, "He needs to be saved. There's something wrong with his heart." And I get a chance to talk to him. I mean, and...and...and then I see, and then...and...and [pauses] by him not knowing me, he doesn't know I've heard about him, so I deal in issues that he don't get a chance to hear. But I don't specify him. As I say, I talk to somebody else. But here's what I'm saying, see. There...there's a young man who's in the maximum security. He was a known rapist, you know, and he was just manipulating everybody. But...but I...I mean, I [pauses]...when I'm dealing with him, I'd be hitting some lugs, I mean. Those...that's...those are phrases...jail phrases, you know. I mean, you...you put the brick on their head spiritually, you know, the heavy, I mean, chastisement, Scriptures, I mean. And I try to tell them, I said, "You know, you're going to reap what you sow," you know. That...that...that...that's a [pauses]...a thing that makes a man think. I said, "Now, everything you put out, remember, you're going to get back." I said, "Remember, right or wrong. You put good out, you're gonna get good back. If you put out bad, you're gonna get bad. Now keep in mind, so remember, the time to sow seeds...you're sowing, you know, because it's gonna come up in your yard and won't come up in mine." You see, and...and you bring them to grip. That's what Jesus did, that's what Jesus did. That's what made Him...them against Jesus. He told them...He said, "You're all alike. Whited sepulchre. You've got the outside clean but the inside is dirty." [Matthew 23:27] And then He would show them a sinner. He said, "As for harlots, [they're] going to enter in before you, [Matthew 21:31] because they...they acknowledge that 'I'm wrong.'" I mean, nothing that would make it too personal, but they're wrong. I don't care who does it. Wrong is just wrong. And the world is so mixed up and perverted. Folk are calling right wrong, and wrong right. And the Lord said, "Don't do that." He said, "Put a difference between clean and unclean." So you got to tell them, "You don't do it like that." Now you won't be popular, you won't have a lot. See, a lot of folks say, "Well, why do you go to jails." I said, "That's the folk who needs to...to know about the Lord. They already do what they're big enough to do." I mean, I mean, I...somebody...I told you somebody stole my car. I said, "Lord, please don't let them tear up my car, but [pauses] if they do, Lord," I said...I said, "When they get in the car, let the man say, 'Oh, he's going to get caught. Huh, maybe I shouldn't have stole that car. That's the preacher's car." He'll say, "That's a car, and I...I gotta take the stuff to the gym [?]. Now the other person will say, "Well, yeah. I tell you, ain't no...stealing no good. I'm not gonna go to jail no more. I got to go back. I got an assignment." But if I see that car up there...but I say, "You know, you're going...the Lord's gonna get you about stealing my car." I said...and I said, "You gonna get a car when you get out of here, and somebody's going to steal your car. Right?" I didn't...I said...I said, "Man, I wonder. Did you put some junk in my car? Well, all right. Somebody's gonna put some junk in your car and blame you for it. And you have to...to just face reality. I could say, [pauses] "That well...well, I'm not...I'm not gonna go back." But you can't stop, because you got members of your own family who you may look up and do something wrong. So you got to tell them. You can't justify it. You got to tell it like it is, yet you got to love them [pauses] 'cause that's why Jesus came, to make a change in one's heart and mind. And that's it. So that's a...so it's a perpetual assignment. No stopping. And what I'm trying to do in the Christian realm is to try and make the people on this side not to be hypocritical, and double-minded, and two-faced and whatnot, because I said, "You see, that's the premise for criminal acts. First you harbor [?] it in the...in the sort good here, but then you get some reverse reaction and you end up being over there." I try...I say, "You got to change your tactics." I said, "You all use the same kind of tactics that criminals use. You're just not out there in the jail." And I try to tell these young people the same thing. So I said, "There ain't but two kinds. Caught and uncaught. They got caught and you didn't." I said, "You had enough money, enough contact." I said, "Enough coverings." I said, "But sin is just sin if your grandmother does it. And we got to call it like it is." So when you do like that, you don't get a lot of popularity, but you feel good inside cause the Bible said, "If I don't warn the wicked, he dies in his sins, I'm held accountable, 'cause he hired me to tell him." [paraphrase of Ezekiel 33:1-9] So I got to tell him. So...so you won't get a lot of friends when you do prison ministry, 'cause folks say, "You must be a criminal." They always say a lot of things. But you got to go on, 'cause it keeps you clear, [rustling sound] 'cause you don't know that that...that criminal will get saved, and cleaned up, and walk with the Lord, and be an asset to the Gospel of Christ Jesus, and be instrumental in maybe saving your grandson or your granddaughter. You know, you don't know.
SHUSTER: Let me ask you about the [pauses]...let's see, [pauses, shuffles papers] the Fundamental Evangelical Christian Jail Worker?
YORK: You...yeah, yeah, yeah. That's the name of our group. We, see....
SHUSTER: How did that get started?
YORK: Well see, that's the name they gave to us. I mean, we had...these seven groups had been coming out to the County Jail for the last thirty-eight years, 'cause I've been out there thirty-six years, and some of them were there [pauses] when I came. And all of them were just different groups like a...whoever's. Like...like, if you had a group, they'd call your group the Shuster group, and different folks that you know would come in with you, see. So all of them are different denominations from different churches. But all of them are Bible believing. So...so, I mean, I guess ten or twelve years ago, I mean, they say, "Well, what we going to call them," because they're...they're the groups that would come on every Sunday. So one of the men said, "Let's call it fundamental, 'cause we stick to the Bible; Evangelical, we're spreading the Word; Christian, we are Christian; jail workers." And that's how it started. [pauses] I think it was Bubba Spick [?], I mean, that was the man, because at first when we just did it, you know, we were just coming. But then...then we started having to have...having somebody over us. So now, well, I'm...I'm the chaplain, and I'm over all those groups that come in on Sunday. But before, Reverend Harper, he was the chaplin, he did it, and then [pauses] when he died, I became the chaplain. And then we...we all worked together. So then we had this brother Spick. He became...we said, "We need a coordinator," you know, who'd get the schedules together, somebody, you know, to make it a group. So that Fundamental Evangelical Christian Jail Workers includes seven different groups. They call from all different churches and different denominations who come every Sunday to...to work there in the jail.
SHUSTER: So, basically, you like provide guidelines for what they can do and....?
YORK: Yeah, I mean, about...I...I give them an assignment of what tiers they're going to, what place they're gonna go to on a Sunday, you know, I mean, [pauses] I mean, how many groups can come in, I mean. I...I give them the...the schedules, I mean. I...I give them the form to fill in so they can bring others with them. And I tell them they...they're not allowed to proselyte [sic]. They just have to preach Jesus. When I...when I...when I say Fundamental, I say, "You just preach Jesus who lived, suffered, bled, died, was buried, got up, ascended, right now pleading, and coming back again." I said, "Don't go into it denomination area. [intermittently shuffles papers] When you come to jail, don't preach your denomination. Just preach Jesus. See now...now...now that's the little schedule. I have a little schedule, I mean, and they go to different [pauses]...I mean, every week they go to different [pauses] tiers, you know. [pauses] I mean, and...and that's that. So we have Baptists, Methodists, [pauses] Church of God in Christ, Church of God, Evangelicals, I mean, all...all...all the different denominations who come on Sunday, you know.
SHUSTER: What do you think is the things that somebody who's going to be in jail ministry needs most? What...what should their personality be like?
YORK: Number one they have to love people, [pauses] the bottom line. Of course, but before that bottom line, they have to love Jesus and have a born again experience, not just a mediocre common...see, I mean really sure enough experience with the Lord, who know that they love God with all their heart. And their...their prime objective is that they love God, they've been saved. And then they have to feel a calling to this kind of ministry, 'cause it's a special kind of ministry. They have to be called. Everybody can't do jail work, because they can't deal with people of that category without becoming bitter or too soft, you know. So they have to have a [pauses] leaning toward jail work, you know, who...someone who loves people, who...who loves souls, who wants to really do real...real spiritual farming, tearing [pounds for emphasis] down the fallow ground of one's heart. I mean, that...that...that takes lot of heavy work to tear it down. And then after you tear it down to put the seed in, and then to water it, see. So they have to be born again, seriously, then have a love for souls, I mean, and have compassion. And then have wisdom how to [pauses]...who...who...who don't mind the sacrifice, and who don't mind who get's credit for it, who's not looking for any [pauses]...one of them said, "compensatory enumerations" [sic], or some might just say, "I'm gonna do it to help out," you know. Because it's not a glory job. It's not a popular job. It's...I mean, its' a sacrificial job. It's...sometime you won't see...in a...in a church, folk respond to you when you do good. Sometime you'll see some facing...looking at you, like they're not paying attention what you're saying. So, if your easily shook up and easily offended, you won't last long in jail work, 'cause sometime they'll be...they'll be washing clothes and watching the television, anything, you know, while you're teaching. And then if you're upsetting, if you're [pauses] easily disturbed, you won't last long. A lot of folk come to jail, I mean, they've...they see...they see a little publicity about me, they say, "I think I'm going to do that kind of work. [watch alarm sounds]
SHUSTER: Go ahead, go ahead.
YORK: And, I mean, and they...they'll...they'll last a week or two, a month. Pretty soon they ain't come back no more, because it's not flowery, you know. You don't see some immediate results. But if you stay long enough, you'll see some permanent results. I mean, I mean, as long as you don't care who gets credit for what [telephone rings] you're doing, you can do it. I mean, I mean, [pauses] you...you have to take the brunt of the responsibility. Well, that's what Jesus did. He humbled himself. You have to humble yourself, [voices in the background] and...and...and deal with those who are considered incorrigible, and whatnot. You have to be able to deal with them. Got to love people. And a lot of...and basically, a lot of the people who go are folk who've formerly been there. And then they're...then they're...sometimes they are those who have families in jail who probably want to help. But a lot of times if they go with that method, for that reason only, they don't last long. 'Cause after they see...they think they see some of....
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