Rev. Sharla Yoder, RLPM Founder
began listening to several Christian radio programs while I got ready for school. On some Saturdays, as I ironed clothes for my mother, I listened to Chaplain Ray. He was later known as “The Father of Prison Ministry.” I was very compelled to listen to the testimonies of born again inmates, as well as poems and songs they had written and shared on his program. They deeply touched my heart! Many years later, God brought this back to my mind.
Evangelist Billy Graham also impacted my life as I watched him on TV every chance I could. He also impacted my call to ministry with this statement:
ONLY ONE LIFE TO LIVE… IT WILL SOON BE PAST. ONLY WHAT’S DONE FOR CHRIST WILL LAST.
At age 16, I stepped out to minister to children at our church’s mission center on Saturday mornings in the ghetto (slums) area of Denver. Most of the people were on welfare and lived in government project housing. I loved sharing God’s love with those children and teaching them His word!
After Bible College in Indiana, I married and we had a son, and both soon had our own businesses. In 1971, I attended a Bible Study taught by Marilyn Hickey. At the end, she gave an invitation to receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit. After Marilyn laid hands on me, I had a glorious experience and received my supernatural language of tongues! After a few years, with a deepening hunger for God, we changed from a denominational church to a large Charismatic Church, and then a Faith Church. We both felt God’s call to full time ministry, and in 1981, we moved to Broken Arrow, OK, to attend Rhema Bible College. My awesome husband suddenly went to heaven in 1986, leaving me to raise our teenage son. God faithfully restored me and took care of us and assured me that He still had a wonderful ministry purpose for my life. I got involved in volunteer ministries. I taught a Bible Study through Loaves and Fishes Ministry, did both hospital ministry and counseling at my church, and was later asked to teach the Single’s Class. In 1989, I began working in the Prayer Ministry at Oral Roberts University. Next, God opened the door for me to begin ministering to the women at the Tulsa County Jail. I will never forget the first meeting. My message was: Who God is and what He can do; who the devil is and what he can do; and who YOU are and what YOU can do! Many got saved and received the infilling of the Holy Spirit, GLORY TO GOD! I developed a real heart of compassion for those women and God soon made His call clear to me for prison ministry.
After 2 years, in 1992, I was led to incorporate REDEEMING LOVE PRISON MINISTRY as a full time ministry. I was asked to take over the chaplaincy at EWCC prison for women on a 3 day per week basis ministering another 3-4 days per week in the women’s prisons and jail. I could not have had better training as a chaplain for the years ahead. When I stepped down because the ministry’s growth, God lead me to start ministry in men’s prisons as well, and assured me that He would send the needed men to help minister to them. The growth is history, as we will soon celebrate 28 years of God’s faithfulness and the faithfulness of many called to be a PART of this ministry! Jesus said, I was in prison and YOU visited me (Matt. 25:36). How He identified with them and shows us His compassion! The Gospels tells us that He preferred to eat with the prostitutes, criminals and tax collectors. And they knew He loved them. He gave them GRACE, no condemnation, and His righteousness, transforming their lives forever!
God’s love and grace for prisoners has increased in my heart over the years. I also love to give others, who are called and prepared, the opportunity to join us to minister to prisoners as well.
Rev. Sharla Yoder
Founder & RLPM President
My journey began as a 9 year old child at our church children’s camp, located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. The pastor, who served as the camp director, showed a very dynamic film about some devoted missionaries who were martyred in Ecuador. You may be familiar with Jim Elliot, along with 4 other men who were commissioned by God to reach out with the Gospel to the Quechua Indians, who were a violent, tribe of people. Gradually, they had made friends with them. But soon, the five men in the missionary group were martyred, leaving their wives and children widowed and fatherless! However, the tribe’s leader later received Jesus, through Jim’s widow, Elizabeth’s, forgiving ministry!
Jim Elliot had made a profound statement that deeply impacted my heart and mind:
HE IS NO FOOL WHO GIVES WHAT HE CANNOT KEEP TO GAIN WHAT HE CANNOT LOSE.
After the dramatic film, the pastor gave an invitation for salvation, and I was one of the first of several children to come to the front to receive Jesus as my Savior. I knew then, that God had put a call on my heart to serve Him as a missionary, but I never felt called to a third world country. I soon