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Chaplain Highlight: Chaplain Yong Hui V. McDonald

Chaplain Yong Hui V. McDonaldWhat is your endorsement setting?

I started working as a chaplain at Adams County Detention Facility (ACDF) in Brighton, Colorado, in 2003. This is my 15th year serving at ACDF as an endorsed prison chaplain.

What prompted you to serve God in this setting?

Early on I struggled with my calling. I decided to respond to my calling while I was writing the book “Journey With Jesus: A Collection of Stories.” I had asked the Lord what kind of ministry He had for me and the Lord reminded me of my painful childhood. My father was an abusive alcoholic. He physically abused my mother. When my older brother was 13, he ran away from home. He became involved in gangs and ended up in prison. The second time I visited my brother in prison was heartbreaking. I cried and thought that if he had come from a peaceful family then he wouldn’t have run away from home and ended up in prison. I wanted someone to introduce Jesus to my brother while he was in prison so he could be saved and find direction in life. That didn’t happen. 

I realized that prison ministry was my calling after being reminded of this experience. My prison ministry started in 1999 during my first semester at Iliff School of Theology. I visited the Youth Offender System in Pueblo, Colorado, and I saw how the Holy Spirit blessed people there. After that, I organized a prison ministry at Iliff and our group ministered to eight different prisons and jails for the next three years, until I graduated.

The United Methodist Church focuses on life transformation in Jesus Christ. What story can you share about transformation because of this ministry?

I have wanted to see a revival in the United States since I arrived in 1979. I wanted to see people being saved and developing the passion to serve God. At ACDF, I see revival and transformations every single day. 

Many inmates are broken, hurting, and open to God’s message. God is healing these people and giving them direction while they are serving in prison. I started Transformation Project Prison Ministry (TPPM) as a nonprofit in 2005, and we published the book series “Maximum Saints.” It presents powerful stories of inmates’ transformations and brings transformation to many others.

There is a great shortage of inspirational books in prisons. TPPM publishes books and DVDs and distributes them in prisons and homeless shelters for free. 

I will share a story of a woman who experienced transformation. On September 5, 2018, I visited the women’s housing unit at ACDF to lead a prayer meeting. One woman was crying loudly. She said she felt demonic attacks and was in pain and turmoil. I called her out of her cell and she came out with a copy of “Maximum Saints.” She said other inmates gave it to her to read and it seemed to be helping her somewhat, but she still didn’t know how to stop the demonic attacks. She was a practicing Native American. 

I told her that Jesus has the power to free her from the demonic attacks. I asked her to read and meditate on Luke 4:18-19: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then when she was ready to accept Jesus, she could invite Jesus into her heart. 

The next day, she told me that she had prayed and invited Jesus into her heart with the prayer inserted in “Maximum Saints.” The demonic attacks had stopped immediately. She was filled with joy and amazement at the power Jesus had to free her from demonic attacks. I am so blessed to be a witness of what the power of the Holy Spirit is doing among prisoners. 

What brings you joy in this ministry?

Three things that bring me joy in my ministry are: 

  1. My ministry to the inmates in which I lead nine worship services every week, lead prayer in the housing units, and counsel both individuals and groups. 
  2. Working with the many dedicated multicultural volunteers participating in TPPM. This project is reaching out to people in Asia, North and South America, the Middle East, and Europe through our books. TPPM produced 37 English books in six different languages (English, Spanish, Korean, Farsi, Vietnamese, and Hindi), totaling 90 books. 
  3. I have been leading workshops, retreats and seminars on inner healing using my book “A Guide to Inner Healing: 16 Prayer Projects and Meditation Guides as Resources for Chaplains, Ministers, and Counselors.” This book is the result of lessons learned from my prison ministry. It is a guide for counseling individuals who are struggling with addiction, grief, depression, suicidal thoughts and spiritual attacks. This book has helped many inmates and teaches them how to help other inmates as well. Chaplain Jo Ann from Santa Barbara Correctional Facility in California uses this book to train prison volunteers. 

My prison ministry has brought so much joy and fulfillment in my life that I am truly thankful that God has called me to this ministry.

What challenges you in this ministry?

There are 2.3 million incarcerated people in America. In our facility are more than 1,000 male and female inmates. More than 100 citizens volunteer at ACDF but I hardly see any United Methodists. I would like to see more United Methodist churches involved in prison ministry and in TPPM. TPPM books can be used to reach out to prisoners without the volunteer even setting foot in a prison.

I am very encouraged by the Korean United Methodist women, Korean United Methodist men and United Methodist churches that faithfully support this book project.

The church wants to pray for you. What is your prayer request?

God asked me to visit 500 churches and share prison revival and He has been opening many doors. My prayer request is that I will be used by God to the fullest to reach out to others who are in need of Christ and spiritual healing. In addition, I ask people to pray for prisoners and for more churches to have a revival, so we can reach out to the lost with passion and Christ’s love and compassion.