Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Story of the Green Bay Jailer

[NOTE: This story was written on December 12, 1994. At the time I served as pastor of Valley Baptist Church in Appleton, Wisconsin. – GL]

Dan Bozich is in daily close contact with some of the vilest people in northeast Wisconsin. Dan is a corrections officer at the Green Bay Correctional Institution, one of Wisconsin’s maximum security prisons. When Dan goes to work in the morning it is to spend his day rubbing elbows with murderers, rapists, and drug dealers. Some days he works in the segregation unit where he deals with such people as child molesters—people deemed unfit even for the general prison population.

The work of a corrections officer is not for everyone. It requires both physical and mental toughness to a degree not found in most people. Dan Bozich more than meets the necessary criteria. Dan is a physically imposing man. He has the build of a football lineman: broad shoulders, huge biceps, and a thick muscular neck. Slap Dan on the back and it’s like slapping a shoe sole. Matching his physical condition is his mental strength. Like most people in law enforcement, Dan has learned to suppress the instincts of compassion and tenderness that are a part of normal human interaction, for there is nothing normal about the prison environment. The very qualities that make life worth living on the outside can cost you your job or even your life when you work in a prison. Any way you look at him, Dan Bozich is a hard man.

Dan’s wife, Jill, has been a member of Valley Baptist Church in Appleton, Wisconsin, for some time. A few months ago Dan and Jill’s twin daughters, Erin and Erica, were saved and later baptized. Dan attended the baptism and was moved by it. He started attending occasional church services. His interest grew. Finally, after the worship service on December 4, Dan made an appointment for later in the week to meet with me.

On Thursday afternoon, as we talked in my study, it quickly became obvious to me that Dan was under conviction. A part of him wanted to follow Christ but another part had real fears about how that could be possible in the work environment that he faced each day. How could he be a Christian without hypocrisy given the way he felt about some of the people he was charged to watch? Dan was ever so close to making a commitment, but it appeared that he was not going to be able to make that last step of faith. I silently prayed in desperation that God would not let this opportunity pass, that somehow he would give me the words to secure for Christ the soul of Dan Bozich. And then, in a glorious moment of supernatural insight, God showed me the key that would release Dan from his prison of sin. And at the very moment the insight was granted, I knew that Dan’s life was about to be changed forever. I inwardly smiled and said to myself, “I’ve got you now!”

“Dan,” I said, “Did you know that there’s an account in the New Testament of a corrections officer who gave his life to Christ?”

“No!” he replied with evident interest.

“Would you like me to read that story to you now?”

“Yes, I would.”

Then I opened my bible and read these words from Acts 16:22-34:

25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened. 27When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

And as I read, I saw in the expression on Dan’s face the evidence that the last line of resistance had just dissolved. Dan and I knelt together and Dan Bozich, the Green Bay jailer, asked Jesus Christ to be the Lord of his life.

That passage from Acts has long been a favorite of mine. But never before had I connected “jailer” with “corrections officer.” And I will never again read those verses without remembering Dan Bozich and how a corrections officer in ancient Philippi once showed a corrections officer in Green Bay, Wisconsin, the path to salvation.