BOLEY – A crew of inmates, volunteers and two state lawmakers completed the walls and set the roof trusses of the John H. Lilley Correctional Center’s new 5,000 square-foot chapel this week.
Kansas-based World Mission Builders is constructing the chapel at no cost to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, which operates the minimum-security prison. Sens. Wayne Shaw, R-Grove, and Dewayne Pemberton,R-Muskogee, joined the crew for their Tuesday.
“Put some tension on it so it won’t be waving so much,”shouted one gray-shirted inmate perched on the roof, guiding a crane-suspended,wind-whipped truss into place as another inmate below tried to hold it steady with a rope.
In addition to religious services for inmates, the chapel will house GED programs and other educational services, while also serving as a meeting location.
Retired Oklahoma City plumber Roger Marchand volunteered his services to help complete the chapel.
“My Bible tells me that you give back as you’ve been given,”said Marchand, who added he also worked on a chapel at Eddie Warrior Correctional Center that the nonprofit built.
The inmates assisting are plumbers, carpenters and others who have extensive experience in construction.
A former state inmate himself, Marchand said he enjoys the work because he gets to interact with inmates fighting addiction just as he did when he was incarcerated decades ago.
Ensuring the work crew was well-fed were volunteers from Highway Baptist Church north of Seminole. They cooked food including delicious soups and other victuals to sate the heartiest appetites.
Sunday school teacher Martha Hester, and husband and wife Shirley and Gerald Carter were cleaning up in a tent near the chapel Tuesday.
They said their church’s motto is to not be a “gallery for saints – but a hospital for sinners.”
“We just have a wonderful, loving church,” Hester said.“That’s just our church.”
The Tulsa World reports the nonprofit has completed more than 300 such projects since 1975. The Boley chapel will be the sixth built at an Oklahoma prison. Crews hope to complete it by the end of this year.
The John H. Lilley Correctional Center houses more than 800 inmates, most of whom near the end of the end of their sentences.
The 256-acre site offers inmates the chance to gain on-the-job experience in a variety of work crews, including agricultural services, food service, maintenance, housekeeping, groundskeeping and industrial work.
Educational services include pre-literacy, literacy, adult basic education and GED courses, as well as college-level classes and vocational courses. Substance abuse treatment, sex offender treatment, and other similar services are also offered.
Joe Wilson with World Mission Builders talks with Oklahoman reporter Carla Hinton Tuesday at John H. Lilley Correctional Center in Boley. The mission is constructing a new chapel for the state corrections facility in Boley.