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Reaching Men behind Bars

Reaching Men behind Bars

  • Linda Piepenbrink
  • April 20, 2023

“I love Moody. I would do anything for Moody,” says Bryan Revor MA ’08 MA ’21. “If I wasn’t so old, I’d go back for a third degree, but I have the two.”

Bryan, a chaplain at Chicago’s Cook County Jail who has two master’s degrees from Moody Theological Seminary, has been giving to Moody directly from his credit card each month ever since he started listening to Moody Radio in 1992 on his commute to his teaching job. “Now it’s going all day long on my Alexa and in my car,” says Bryan, who also listens to podcasts like Open Line and The Land and the Book.

His knowledge of Moody goes back even farther to 1976 when a Moody student named Frank Baron MA ’79 invited him to church to see A Thief in the Night, an evangelical film. Bryan was 19 years old when he prayed to receive Christ in Frank’s car.

Bryan went on to earn an education degree and taught carpentry at Morton East High School in Cicero, Illinois. But on September 4, 1999, at a friend’s invitation, he agreed to give a short testimony in the Cook County Jail. He chose minimum-security Division 2 “because I was scared,” he says.

The fear soon dissipated. Following his brief testimony. Bryan offered to stick around in the back to pray for anyone’s cases. After praying for the last guy in line, he asked him, “Hey, if you were to die tonight, do you know for sure you’d go to heaven?”

The man hoped so but wasn’t sure.

“This Bible says you can know for sure that you have eternal life,” Bryan said, opening his Bible and explaining the gospel.

The detainee said, “Man, I want to follow Christ!” so Bryan led him in a sinner’s prayer.

“He’s crying, and I’m crying, and it was a turning point,” says Bryan, who cried all weekend as he thought of the men behind bars. “It was definitely God calling me into jail ministry,” he says.

“From that day on, I never really looked at them as convicts or murderers or rapists or drug addicts. I looked at them as lost people who need Christ,” he says. “But I realized I really need to learn the Bible if I’m going to be involved in jail ministry.”

Entering Moody and jail ministry

Bryan was in his 40s and married with three children when he began an MA in Urban Studies at Moody Theological Seminary in 2003. “It was such a great program. It gave me the tools I needed to minister in a jail and to street people,” he says.

He graduated in 2008 and served as staff chaplain at the Cook County Jail from 2010 to 2015. Also a Gideon and member of Chaplains for Christ, Bryan would bring in a case of Bibles and New Testaments, and the men would often fight over them. “They were so hungry for the Word of God,” he says. He’d also visit men in every cell block, going from chuck hole to chuck hole to talk and pray with them. “They had a lot of questions,” he says.

After retiring from teaching carpentry in 2017, “the first thing I did was enroll back at Moody,” he says. Bryan earned a second master’s degree in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship in 2022. He loved the capstone class, with its basis on training disciples who make disciples who then make disciples. “I’m trying to use that model as I get back into the Cook County Jail system,” he says.

Currently he serves as a chaplain in medium security, where detainees await a court date that can sometimes take years. If found guilty, they are sent to a state prison.

“If I can train, say, four or five guys, and then they train four or five, and we keep multiplying disciples, we could get discipleship groups in all the penitentiaries throughout the state,” he says.

Giving to the name you can trust

Although some restrictions remain post-COVID, Bryan loads up his backpack with Bibles and leads a small group Bible study once a week. “The main thing is I always carry Bibles every time I go in there,” he says.

Sometimes he also arranges for books to be sent. Recently a Christian inmate he’d worked with in 2010 wanted to start a book study in a state prison. Moody donated a dozen copies of two different books, including Eternity by Joseph Stowell (Moody Press). The man was thrilled to start his book study with other inmates.

And Bryan is thrilled to continue giving to Moody. “I really think Moody is a name you can trust,” he says. “Sometimes you give and you worry—is that money really going where it needs to go? I really trust Moody. The money is going to go for ministry, for reaching the lost, for training students to minister to others. I really love the school and their ministry. I want to give to them as long as I can with as much as I can.”

About the Author

  • Linda Piepenbrink

Linda Piepenbrink is managing editor of Moody Alumni & Friends magazine and is a senior editor for Marketing Communications at Moody Bible Institute.