Michele Reynolds (’19) is learning what it means to follow God’s calling – even when it’s difficult. Right now, she’s working toward earning her Master of Arts in Christian care while working as a chaplain for Good News Jail and Prison Ministry at Prince George’s County Correctional Center in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Seminary can be tough, working in ministry is undoubtedly tough and working in a prison setting is even tougher. But according to her, “The most challenging part about chaplaincy is assisting the senior chaplain in managing 400 volunteers, working two jobs and going to seminary simultaneously!” An understatement, to be sure. And yet, she’s taking it all in stride (and maintaining an impressive GPA all the while). “I’m giving 100 percent to the 99,” she said.
Impressive academics and incredible stamina aside, Reynolds says she’s always had a heart for volunteerism, which she credits her parents, George and Dorothea Smith, for instilling in her, and that chaplaincy just makes sense to her. “I had been volunteering for almost 15 years at Prince George’s County Correctional Center when our senior chaplain fell ill and I was temporarily placed in his position for nine months,” she explained. “I call it my “Divine Internship”! It’s a part of my Jeremiah 29:11d.” In her role as the first female chaplain at the correctional facility in Upper Marlboro, Reynolds has many responsibilities. “Primarily, I am in charge of making sure all female inmates spiritual and emotional needs are met,” she said. “I also train all volunteer managers and manage the volunteers themselves, and provide spiritual guidance and counseling to correctional officers and staff.” Basically, her role isn’t an easy one – but it’s certainly important.
Above: Chaplain Michele Reynolds
Reynolds noted that her education at Lancaster Bible College | Capital Seminary & Graduate School is making a real difference in the way she does her job. “Most times what I am learning in the class I’m already experiencing and or practicing every day,” she said. “It gives me confirmation in how I’m doing in ministry and classmates can see through me that the subjects we learn will be practiced one day in their ministry.”
Reynolds is intimately familiar with the challenging situations a chaplain might face on any given day. “Recently, a woman named Mrs. Johnson* called us and said that her granddaughter Sharon* was in our correctional center,” she said. “The grandmother was frantic because Sharon’s baby was nowhere to be found.” Reynolds and other staff members were able to talk with Sharon, but it became apparent that she suffered from a severe mental illness, and much of what she said was unintelligible. They never found out where the baby was. “We assume that the baby was picked up by child protective services, but we don’t know,” said Reynolds. “It’s heart-wrenching and makes emotions surface in my quiet times with the Lord. In the midst of these situations, I pray and look for the ways I can assist the inmates and their families during these difficult times. In this field, you come across a whole lot of horrible things, but you embrace the good things. Working as a chaplain teaches me to be even more compassionate and to remember in the end, it’s all about Jesus and serving Him and His people.”
“I was called to minister to the least, the lost and the left out.” said Reynolds. Overall, she says she’s grateful for the training she’s receiving through the seminary. “My journey to obtain my MA in Christian Care is more inspiring and meaningful since I’ve become a chaplain,” she explained. “I took a couple of breaks before, and I’m glad I did – and some instances had too – but it’s now it’s much more meaningful in my life and in other lives.”