Don Castleberry

“Don’t they ever give up?”

I watched from the trustee area of the jail, next to the kitchen, as the neatly dressed man entered the recreation area. It was near Christmas and I was an inmate at the Lubbock County Jail. It was December, 1976.

I moved quickly to my cell so the man could not see me, or invite me to participate in the church service he was preparing to hold. But it so happened that my cell was right next to the area where the Gideon was to bring his message. He could not see me because I was under my bunk, but I could hear him. His name was Jim Hamilton and I was not interested in anything he had to say. I did not know Jesus and did not want to know Him.

I thought about what disappointment I had brought to others and to myself. I had been a banker for nine years with prestige, luxurious living, all the niceties of life – now look where I was. The money had been too easy to get, and now I was facing the possibility of forty-six years in prison.

There was no way out for me because I had confessed my crime before a friend of mine who was an agent of the FBI. I had done so on purpose because the load of guilt had become too much to carry. Now I was burdened with heartbreak, sorrow, loneliness, despair, depression – all that Satan could throw at me.

Several weeks later I was watching a football game on the television in the recreation area. It was Sunday and my mind was on the game. Suddenly there appeared another one of those neatly dressed men, grinning from ear to ear. I thought, “What does he know?” He handed me a little brown New Testament. I looked at it and he began telling me about Jesus.

I was angry because he was disturbing the game, but I was nice to him. When he left I hid the New Testament under my mattress. You see, I was not interested in what this Gideon, Denzil Bailey, had to say either.

By this time I had already been before a Federal judge who had given me three years and four months in jail, and the rest of my time on probation. In my mind, I thought I would probably go back to my old ways when I was free. Later I realized God had something else in mind.

Another lonely Sunday rolled around. I was washing dishes in the kitchen when another man came in. I knew he was a Gideon because he was neatly dressed and was smiling. I thought, “Don’t they ever give up?”

Another inmate came in and we visited with the Gideon about two hours. He talked and I listened. I so wanted to believe in Jesus, but I just could not understand. Then, Noel Williams, the Gideon, led me in the sinner’s prayer. My heart leaped within me. Free! Free! Free! Those prison bars turned golden and the silver-white snow surrounding the jail sparkled magnificently. I will never forget that beautiful Sunday – January 9, 1977. I was still locked up, but I was free on the inside!

The Lord then led me to a man of God who taught me God’s Word for three and one-half years. He tucked me under his wing and would not let me go until the meat of the Word had sunk deep into my heart and soul. That man was Reverend David Stephenson, who later became the pastor of the Community Church of God in Nashville, Tennessee.

Now God allows me to minister in prisons to others who are lost. I am sure many of them say, “Don’t they ever give up?”

* * * * * * *

Many wonderful things have happened to me since those days. I became one of those “neatly dressed, smiling men” - a Gideon. I was also the Chaplain for several years for the same facility I was confined in when I gave my life to God – the Lubbock County Jail. God moves in strange and mysterious ways. To Him be the glory!

In 1985, my wife Donna and I were led to form Freedom in Jesus Ministries, a non-profit ministry organized under IRS code section 501 (c) 3. Over these intervening years, both of us have been busy preaching, teaching, and ministering to men and women in many prison facilities. We also train prison ministry volunteers and are anxious to seed prison ministries in other churches.

In addition to preaching and teaching in prisons weekly, we lead an annual missions trip to Guatemala. We are available for speaking in congregational settings, conferences and wherever God opens doors of opportunity.

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