If you were to ask Ron Metschke what was the one thing that has grounded him, his marriage, his thoughts, and everything in his life up to now, he could summarize it in one word...Jesus. From his twenties as a new husband and father, to his career and later as an elder at a local church, it was God’s providential hand and the truth in scripture that has kept Ron from wavering. A few years ago, as Ron looked towards retirement, he began to ask how he could continue serving the Lord and grow as a man of God. How God answered that question for Ron this past year, never did he think it would be what he is doing today for the Lord.
“Three years ago when I knew I was close to retiring,” Ron described, “and as I was preparing for that, I knew I wanted to use my time wisely. My cousin introduced me to the Colson Fellowship Program. It’s a 10-month study and as I looked into it, I ended up applying. Pastor Gavin sponsored me. As a part of the commissioning process after the program, you must develop a ministry plan. After coming up with the plan, I then asked myself the question ‘What are you going to do with it?’”
After meeting up with a good friend not long after these thoughts and questions, Ron’s friend had an idea. Considering that Ron had a bent for ministry, his friend invited Ron to come to a Wednesday night program for inmates. The program’s leaders and volunteers walked alongside them as they re-entered work and life in general. The program also included hosting area businesses, owners, and professionals to share testimony and offer any answers, tools, etc. to help with re-entering.
“One night they didn’t have an employer presenting,” Ron shared. “So, they asked my wife and I and then they asked if my family would sponsor a Wednesday dinner. We met the group and fell in love with the men. Their stories and their openness are amazing. When you learn other people’s stories on how they got there, it just made me realize it could happen to anyone. I felt so sad for the lack of resources and the reality of being stuck in a system. Almost all of them didn’t have dads and/or had moms drugged up and in and out of the system allowing gangs to step in for the absent family and what that all leads to. You know, I’ve done a lot of stupid things in my life and any one of those times I could have been in the same circumstance.”
Since that evening last November, Ron started going every week. Ron then got invited to go to the men’s Thursday night Christian based AA/NA program.
“My friend and I decided to go and get to know the church and the pastor there,” Ron said. “That’s where a couple of us met Cheri Rosenberry from Bridgeway Ministries. She’s the heart of this whole thing. As I began attending more and more, occasionally at the church, and a couple times a month at the Overcomers on Thursday evenings, the more we learned on how to serve these guys. This past February I became a sponsor.”
By becoming a sponsor, Ron got the opportunity to take up to three guys out on a regular basis, spend time with them, learn about their challenges, and hear all their questions.
“They have a lot of questions,” Ron said humbly. “They ask how they can be successful. You might think of them as tough, but most are afraid of what it will be like when they come out. They may have families, they want jobs, and they want to learn.”
After serving as a sponsor and graduating from the Fellowship program, Ron heard and saw some struggles the Overcomers program was dealing with. After talking it through with Cheri and the guys, Ron’s heart was burdened to bring the program to Citylight.
“I had lunch with Gavin one day, and I presented the idea to him. I told him the whole team would rather come to Citylight. A few of us already attended Citylight, Cheri’s daughter goes to Citylight and I asked him if he would support it and he said ‘yes.’ Gavin thought Citylight West would be good for everyone, so we arranged the van and started bringing the guys a few months ago. The team even brought the Warden and the parole officers to West and met with Gavin and some of the other pastors. It’s been fun to watch how it’s all worked.”
One other thing that’s been great to see workout is with Cheri. Ron shared that Cheri had been praying for the past 14 years for Godly men to be strong partners in the ministry. It’s been her ongoing prayer for men to help her with it. Now, there’s a group of men. In addition to Ron, there's Terry Oberembt, Bryant Moran, and Jared Frye, brothers in Christ, who have been present to help her. It’s been a blessing for Cheri, and because of that, it’s been a blessing to Ron and the other men.
“Cheri has taught me and Terry and all of us so much,” Ron replied about how Cheri is the heart of it all. “To be able to partner with Cheri and Bridgeway Ministries has been tremendous. She is a mentor to us. We get to pray with her, support her, and serve her. The team has learned so much from Cheri.”
As he and the team have gotten to know the men, Ron has continued to learn about God and the need with His children. Ron said,
“You never have to ask the guy’s for their story. They can’t wait to tell you. I think they just want to share, especially when they know you want to know them. I think it removes the shame. It gives them confidence. They haven’t been loved in years, some of them in decades.”
Ron has also learned to continually ask himself the question ‘what would Jesus do?’ over and over. He described it as
“God has revealed to me, and it makes me feel good, that I am being obedient. As I minister and support these guys, I then get to feel God’s acceptance through the guys. What would Jesus do? How would He treat these guys? How would He listen to their stories? This whole thing has shown me Jesus.”
God has made it clear to Ron that not only is He is providential, but also He is sovereign. At a micro level, God is showing Ron with this ministry His power and sovereignty means and that has allowed Ron to relate better to the current context with the culture.
“With the evil in our culture, I have now more peace about it,” Ron said with confidence. “I have always trusted but I have now more confidence and understanding to God’s timing. The Joseph series we are going through as a church on Sundays has showed this. I feel peace and I do not fret about stuff. I used to, especially with retirement. Now I just don’t worry about it. Frankly, getting to know these guys, why should I fret about my life? Their stories tear your heart out. If I can be there to help and give them a chance, great.”
Ron has also seen how the people in his life have rallied around the ministry along with him. The first person that Ron mentioned is his wife, Kim. Kim has been an encouragement by pushing Ron when he needs it, looking for more opportunities to serve the guys, and is patient and kind with the last minute changes and needs. He has also seen radical support from his kids and immediate family, and even the pastors and members at Citylight.
“That level of support has been positive,” Ron revealed. “Everyone has been super cool about it and helpful and the guys feel that and know it. A lot of them have been able to talk to the pastors. One Sunday, Trevor (whose is on staff at Citylight) hosted a meet and greet and did the history of Citylight with the guys to better connect with them.”
Today, the ministry is growing. They see 3-4 new inmates a week because of the positive feedback from others so now the team drives two vans to church. Ron says the need is for more sponsors.
“You have to have a commitment and have a passion for it,” Ron described. “You get training, but the guys will read you like a book if your support is not genuine. And ideal sponsor is mature, a little older, a mentor, and someone who can help them re-acclimate with the community. They want someone that can help their transition, educate them, and how to get out successfully.”
“Just come and do a ride along with us. Go and check out the Overcomers class on Thursday nights down at Midtown. You will see that these guys share their souls.”
Ron’s hope is that these men can have the hope that he has and that is from and for Jesus. For Ron, that’s what everything points to and is for.
“It’s like the verses (1 Corinthians and Hebrews) of taking them barely milk to meat,” Ron concluded. “To have that kind of maturity to grab a hold of that is still difficult. I want them to have that hope and to know God is sovereign and providential and loves them. That’s what will give the guys that peace. You know there’s one guy that was in the program but who got out, went to his parole, and is working to be on the worship team. To see that guy up there on stage on a Sunday morning, leading worship, would be so cool.”
Early on Ron knew it was all about Jesus. Now, as he steps toward those who need to hear His truth and hope, and serve those that God brings into his life, he is given the answer over and over to the question ‘what would Jesus do?’ God is so good.