GENESEO -- Jail chaplain Rodney Weber has heard the sound of cell doors slamming shut for more than 60 years.|
Some people may say Mr. Weber, 87, has been serving a ''life'' sentence at the Henry County Jail. He has spent most of his life changing the lives of prison inmates, and professing the promise of eternal life for all.
Mr. Weber, a Geneseo cattle farmer, goes directly to jail every Thursday night and Sunday afternoon to meet with inmates. He always carries a sack of Bibles and a briefcase containing photographs, letters and testimonials he's received from other inmates over the years.
Sometimes he doesn't leave the jail until after 11 p.m., and then drives the 25-mile trip back home to his rural Geneseo farm.
Mr. Webergoes to each cell block and practices the same routine -- sharing a handshake, a warm smile, a Bible,briefcase contents and stories of other inmates.
"I don't judge these fellas," Mr. Weber said. "I don't ask them what they're in for."
He begins services with a devotional time, then prayer and Bible study, he said.
''At the close of our time together, I extend the invitation for the men to accept Christ,'' he said. ''I never go there and talk about the Lord, and how they need to be saved without asking them to receive what the Lord has for them."
Inmates choose whether or not to sign invitation cards Mr. Weber has for them to accept the Lord as their Savior.
He also has wooden crosses on which he asks inmates who accept the Lord as their Savior to write their name.
"Each cross holds 200 names and when I have one that is full, I place it in the chapel at home," he said, referring to the Chapelon the Hill, at the Maranatha Worship Center, on Mr. Weber's farmland.
"My purpose and my belief is that God sent His son into the world to die for sinners and I consider myself the worst of those sinners," he said. "That is what the Apostle Paul said. And I feel the same way, and so by not lifting myself up I can gain the confidence of the person in jail. In the last 60-plus years, I have seen literally thousands of people confess their sins and receive the Lord into their hearts, and I say, to God be the glory."
Inmates share prayer requests with him during his visits.
Mr. Weber takes those requests back to his Loraine United Methodist home church, where they are typed out by one of the church ladies, and then made available for church members to use when praying.
Mr. Weber also visits inmates' families if the parties agree, either in person or by phone.
He has many stories to tell from his years as a jail chaplain, including one about ayoung body builder and tattooed Hell's Angels Chapter president from the Chicago area who found Christ.
"He was being held at the Henry County for the federal prison system, and that's where he met me," Mr. Weber said. "He was an enforcer of sorts, beating up people, selling drugs and threatening to murder rival bikers.
"In the beginning he was kind of distant," Mr. Weber said. "I told him, 'I know somebody can do better than what you got.' He became a born-again Christian and every time I came in there, he'd just hug me.
"I am blessed to be part of these men's lives, leading them to repentance and being able to watch them invite Jesus into their lives."
Birth date: July 23, 1925.
Family:Wife, Doris Weber, who died in 1967; sons, David Weber (Cindy) and Jeff (Diane) Weber, all of Geneseo; four grandchildren.
Education: Geneseo High School.
Experience: Began helping on the family farm in his childhood, where he continues to live and farm.
Favorite Scripture: "Everyone would say John 3:16, that is everyone's favorite and I also like Romans 15:20-21."
Favorite Biblical character I'd like to meet: "Jesus, and I will meet him someday in heaven."
Pit experience: "When I was 22 and fell asleep at the wheel on my way home from a bull sale and hit a bridge and broke about every bone in my body and had to stay down for about a year to heal. The one thing I remember hearing the doctor say that seven other people had hit that bridge in the same year and had died. I was the only one to live."
Peak experience: "When I married my wife Doris."
One thing I feel strongly about: "Souls of men and that no one goes to hell."
I wish I knew how to: "Let everyone know how to be saved."
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